Starting the biggest fans of them all

The Crystal Maze logoAt 9pm tonight on Channel 4, The Crystal Maze returns for the first episode in its new series. It will be a Stand Up 2 Cancer celebrity special, notwithstanding that (most of?) the rest of Channel 4’s programming for the strand will be happening, as usual, in October. Alternatively, if you don’t want to wait for 9pm, you can watch it on All 4, formerly known as 4oD, until the show starts – and if you’re an O2 customer, then you’ll be able to see the show two days early all series long through O2 Priority. (Apparently there’ll be a code, granting access to the impending episode, released every Wednesday at 9pm.)

Accordingly, I’m far from alone in having seen the episode already, but I’m not going to spoil anything before it airs, and will be keeping my thoughts on it to the comments to this post for spoiler-prevention reasons. Whatever you think, I remain convinced the escape room industry in this country as a whole owes a debt of gratitude to the show; while escape rooms have boomed in countries which never had the show or anything like it, it’s a convenient, widely-known point of reference that surely sped the process of public acceptance along. Will the show’s return help the industry further? Remains to be seen – but, at the very least, I don’t see how it can hurt.

In other news, the UK Puzzle Championship opens to solvers at noon today; if you want to start your clock for two and a half hours of puzzles, you can find the details at the official contest page!


  1. It’s always good to see a great-looking show with a good selection of games back, and I don’t begrudge that they tried to do it differently by giving Richard his own, officious character. However, this left a lot going on at once and not all of it worked out. I’m OK with “mins” and “ALIS” (Automatic Lock In Scenario) but there was too much repetition in Richard’s quirks and the rhythm was really strange in places, which is an unusual criticism, but the original series really did have a glorious, fast-paced rhythm to it that this is lacking. Perhaps it’s ever more clear why the original series never did celebrity specials – not only was the selection of celebrities unspectacular, the celebrities thought they were bigger than the show, and had their own gimmicks (and fitness DVD in one case) to promote.

    Editing the games felt inauthentic; once you spot the timer being played with in the edit once, it’s impossible not to look out for it in the future. It changes the show from “here’s a story about an adventure” to “here’s a story about people having an adventure” – it’s not a show where you see people playing games, it’s a documentary where you see highlights of people playing games, and show is filled with a much weaker filler-to-killer ratio than it should ever have had.

    The tone is flat-out weird, and a friend puts it brilliantly: “But there were a number of things I found annoying mainly with the rather jarring insincere tone the show has opted for, we don’t need gags referring to the edit thanks and neither do we really need overt references to pop culture. People don’t watch The Crystal Maze because it’s *cool*, people watch it because it’s *fun*.

    The first series of The Crystal Maze clunked in a few ways (some games totally misfired through being either far too quick or far too slow and dull) but this is clunking in many other ways. Maybe they’ll get the hang of it – perhaps the game will shine through when we get back to civilian contestants, or perhaps it’ll take a second series and a deliberate effort to focus on the game’s strengths.


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