“Waka-waka-waka.” There are some videogame sound effects that enter the subconscious and refuse to leave, regardless of how old you get or how many other games you play.
The Metal Gear exclamation, collecting rupees in Zelda, Mario becoming Super Mario… and, probably the most famous sound effect of all, the sound of Pac-Man munching pills.
Needless to say, there’s a lot more to Pac-Man than just an iconic sound effect: it’s one of the most-loved, most-played and most copied games of all time and yet, Pac-Man is basically the videogame equivalent of a maze puzzle.
The difference is in the details, however, and three key gameplay elements are key to its success. Firstly, it’s not enough for Pac-Man to simply find the exit from the maze – he must first clear it of all pills before moving on to the next screen. Importantly though, Pac-Man is under constant threat of death from four chasing ghosts. Power pills – strategically located in the maze – enable him to turn the tables on his spectral nemeses and eat them for extra points. This then leads to that key gameplay decision: should you use the power pill respite to go after the ghosts or to get those last few regular pills and finish the level?
Like Space Invaders before it, Pac-Man was one of the first games to make the jump from dingy arcades to the mainstream and, even more so than Space Invaders, it featured one of gaming’s most enduring characters.
Everyone knows the story of how Pac-Man came into being: designer TÅru Iwatani tells how he was inspired by a pizza, with one of if its slices having being eaten. Little could he have known that his ‘Puckman’ – later changed in the US to Pac-Man due to fears about vandalism – would go on to star in his own animated TV show, be the subject of a top ten single, adorn t-shirts and posters and star in more than 30 games.
Today, the original Pac-Man remains as playable, enduring and as addictive as it was back in 1980 and how many 30 year-old games can say that?
Each of the ghosts – Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde – is programmed with its own personality and will chase Pac-Man in different ways. Quite a feat for a game that’s only 25K of data.
The maximum score in Pac-Man is 3,333,360 points. This is achieved by eating every pill, ghost and fruit on every one of its 255 screens without losing a life. Only six people are known to have ever achieved this score.