When discussing titans in the world of maze-based television game shows, two names immediately come to mind; British favourite The Crystal Maze and 1990s Australian hit A*Mazing. Both presented by uniquely charismatic hosts and involving elaborate, challenge-filled labyrinths, they each have their merits. But in classically combative game show style, only one can be considered the best.
Throughout The Crystal Maze, British comedian Richard Ayoade’s eccentric maze master character is a delight, providing whimsy, snark and enigmatic clues for every challenge.
A*Mazing host James Sherry, on the other hand, maintained his good nature and sense of professionalism as much as possible but clearly found his role frustrating at times. Here he is flinging a notecard into a contestant’s eyeball.
Based on the attitudes of certain contestants, Sherry’s actions were presumably justified. Nevertheless, for his entertainingly sarcastic character and lack of unnecessary child cruelty, The Crystal Maze host earns the tick of approval.
The Crystal Maze - 1 A*mazing – 0
At 32,000 square feet and featuring 4 distinct zones full of elaborate structures, the set of The Crystal Maze is an impressive feat of architecture and design.
Not to be outdone, A*Mazing featured a purpose built, two-sided maze featuring giant penguins, slides, a ball-pit and a hall of mirrors amongst numerous obstacles. Unfortunately, the things that made the A*Mazing maze great were also the things that made it frustrating, as very few of the contestants seemed to learn from the previous runners.
With impressive sets on both TV shows, this comparison results in a tie.
The Crystal Maze - 2 A*mazing - 1
The Crystal Maze comprises a sophisticated and consistently different selection of well-constructed puzzles and games presenting physical and mental challenges. At times, the tasks prove too difficult for certain contestants, such as this guy who gets stuck swinging aimlessly for his entire 3 minutes of allotted time.
Still, watching the occasional participant have difficulty is made tolerable and fun by Richard Ayoade’s snide but hilarious running commentary.
In contrast, A*Mazing categorically loses this comparison based solely on its use of the wildly infuriating keyboard of doom, as seen here:
Though the temperamental and irksome keyboard ensures The Crystal Maze comes out on top in this comparison, Sherry’s ability to become noticeably irritated but never resort to serious verbal abuse should be commended.
The Crystal Maze - 3 A*mazing - 1
As well as the occasional celebrity episode featuring comedians and British TV personalities, The Crystal Maze stars ordinary people who are relatable and easy to support. Conversely, A*Mazing featured this girl who wanted to meet Hitler with no further explanation.
Having the good sense to at least keep the potential bigotry of its participants a secret, The Crystal Maze again comes out ahead.
The Crystal Maze - 4 A*mazing - 1
Prizes on The Crystal Maze range from large sums of money to adventure holidays. Conversely, prizes on A*Mazing tended to be educational tools such as encyclopedias, guaranteeing disappointment even in the event of success. In the final maze run, however, contestants had the opportunity to win a Nintendo Gameboy by retrieving a specific key hidden on the course. Accordingly, A*Mazing wins this comparison decisively, as nothing on The Crystal Maze, or any other gameshow, comes close to equalling such a glorious prize.
The Crystal Maze - 4 A*mazing - 2
Like an adult version of A*Mazing but with fewer irritating primary school students, The Crystal Maze gives adults an excuse to challenge themselves with genuinely tricky tasks and a childlike sense of fun.
To declare The Crystal Maze superior to A*Mazing may seem like sacrilege to nostalgic fans but given A*Mazing has been off the air for 20 years and was basically a giant ad for Nintendo, The Crystal Maze deserves its place atop the mantle of maze-based quiz shows.
The Crystal Maze airs every Sunday night at 7:35pm on SBS VICELAND and streaming now at SBS On Demand: