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Mobile game of the week: Pac-Man 256

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The new Pac-Man game is a little bit different than you remember, and not just because you play it on your smartphone. Although more recent iterations of the franchise have added more bells and whistles to the classic concept, Pac-Man 256 turns the entire concept on its head by sending the perpetually hungry spheroid hero racing through an endless map of power pellets as a lethal glitch wave nips at his heels.

The wave and the game's title is a reference to the famous glitch from level 256 of the original game, where half the board disintegrates into colorful alphanumeric symbols. Here, the glitch slowly creeps forward destroying the level inch by inch as you race away, turning Pac-Man from a claustrophobic one-room play into a thrilling chase scene. Suddenly, it isn't about sweeping the board of every power pellet anymore. It's about running as fast as you can through an obstacle course of ghosts that's dissolving behind you.

The game both demands and rewards forward momentum, not only by shifting the colors of the map like a neon disco floor as you progress, but rewarding you with speed boosts for chomping power pellets in unbroken chains. That often requires taking more hazardous routes through the course, so watch your step and don't double back—just keep moving. Over time, you'll also unlock power-ups that throw more entertaining chaos into the game, like ghost-killing lasers, freeze bombs and even tornados.

Pac-Man 256 was developed for Bandai Namco by Hipster Whale, the studio best known for the mobile game Crossy Road. Their popular car-dodging adventure is sometimes described as "Infinite Frogger," so it's not a huge surprise to see them reimagine another classic '80s arcade game with similarly endless levels.

The game is free to download, and every day you'll be only allotted six credits. Each play costs one credit, though you can use another credit to continue when you die—but only once. After that, you'll start over at the beginning. You can also choose "free play," which will allow you to keep going after you're out of credits, but with none of the power-ups that make it so much fun.

If you're particularly desperate, you can pay more for extra credits once your allotment runs out—the modern equivalent of popping another quarter into the arcade machine. Or you can "earn" a "gift" of more credits by watching an ad, which is the modern equivalent of, I dunno, having to listen to a lecture from your parents before you could play video games? Except that the lecture is about... buying more video games? There's no exact parallel, I guess. You can also plunk down $7.99 for infinite credits, aka "actually purchasing the game."

Pac-Man 256 is available on iOS and Android.

See the original notebook sketches for Pac-Man

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Pac-Man's creator Toru Iwatani shows his original notebook sketches from the iconic arcade game that turned 35 this year.

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Play Pac-Man in Google Maps today

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Yes, it's almost April Fool's Day, the national day of acting like a jerk with impunity, but this is no trick: You can play Pac-Man in Google Maps right now. Just zoom in to your neighborhood or any interesting tangle of roads, click the Pac-Man icon in the lower left, let the game begin. You'll have more fun if you pick an area with a lot of intersections and escape route -- remember, those ghosts would love to chase you to the end of a long, lonely country road and eat your face.

Note that the area of play is limited; you can't just make a game from the entirety of Manhattan, for example, and will have to zoom in on a smaller area instead. Happy chomping! Update: It's possible to play on mobile as well s desktop. Instructions are here.

Pac-man reimagined as survival horror

Mark Wilson at FastCoDesign:

I should feel safe in this moment of stillness, but I can’t let my guard down. Because with every safe step I take, I know that I can only be one step closer to my unseen enemy. That’s when I see him. At least 10 feet tall. Confidently pink.

Buckner & Garcia's "Pac-Man Fever" (1982)

NewImage Buckner & Garcia perform "Pac-Man Fever," from the 1982 album of the same name, on American Bandstand. I had this LP and the inner sleeve featured the patterns to maximize your score on the game. The title song hit #9 on the Billboard Hot 100. The second single, "Do the Donkey Kong," didn't do quite as well. Other tracks include "Froggy's Lament," "Goin' Berzerk," and "Ode to a Centipede." Due to rights issues, the currently-available "reissue" is actually a re-recording of the original music. The original LP can be easily found for around $40 or check your local thriftshops.