Crap Shoot: The Crystal Maze

Richard Cobbett

Wonder if people who pirated it got an 'I Cracked The Crystal Maze' trophy.

Richard Cobbett takes a look at the wonderful world of gameshow conversions, starting with one of the best British programmes... and one of the most disappointing licensed games.

Games based on gameshows are generally a bad idea, and for pretty obvious reasons. No fame, no tension, no prizes, no point. The Crystal Maze had the chance to be different. It was a gameshow about playing games. How could anyone screw that up? Well, let's have a little think, shall we?

Wonder if people who pirated it got an 'I Cracked The Crystal Maze' trophy.

(I'd embed a clip here, but unfortunately they're all locked down on YouTube.)

For our foreign readers/people who make me feel old/people who've never caught a re-run, the idea was this: a team of six contestants, guided by Riff-Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, taking on four themed zones (Aztec, Futuristic, Medieval and either Industrial or Ocean depending on the series) full of challenges lasting up to three minutes. Challenges were split into four categories, Skill, Physical, Mental and Mystery, with the prize being a time-crystal that was worth five seconds in the final game, The Crystal Dome. If a contestant took too long, or broke a rule of the challenge (from ignoring it completely in favour of a faster way, to touching the floor, or triggering something three times), they were locked in, and it would cost the rest of their team a crystal to buy them out.

It was a great show, thanks to charismatic hosting from Richard O'Brien, excellent sets that actually conveyed the feel of the different worlds and made it feel like a real place, and... bluntly... the stupidity of many of the contestants. You might pretend it was the games , but it wasn't. It was the failure.

And speaking of failure, onto the game version. How could you possibly screw up a Crystal Maze computer game - arguably one of the easiest challenge-based shows to convert? Create the zones, code up a ton of simple but fun mini-games, and there's no reason for the good time not to roll. In fact, it's so easy, let's make it a challenge. Why does The Crystal Maze suck so much?

a) Not enough games

b) Terrible games

c) Not enough, but also too many terrible games

d) All of the above

If you answered 'chipmunk', see a therapist immediately. If not, let's see if you're right! Here's a shot from a Physical game in the Aztec zone, in all its just-like-being-on-the-set glory.

This came out in 1993. Same year as Doom.

Your prize for finishing the game is to play it again and try to beat your high-score, much as the prize for licking random needles you find in the park might be Hepatitis-C. One playthrough won't show you all the games, but it'll show you most of them, and are all you need to run away screaming.

If you want more 90s British gameshow action, there's an iPhone Crystal Maze out now, although I haven't tried it. Still no sign of anything based on Interceptor though, and we never did get a game based on Knightmare for PC. (Don't feel bad though, all the attempts to make one were terrible .) Do you remember any other nostalgic gameshows that deserved to make the interactive jump? Comment!

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