How PAC-MAN was inspired by the yellow color of LEGO® bricks
PAC-MAN is hands down one of the best arcade games of all time. During its production in 1979, the lead designer of the game, Toru Iwatani, wanted to create an inclusive game that appealed to everyone, everywhere.In the game, you navigate the maze to eat all the PAC-DOTs, POWER PELLETs, fruits and other items before the four colored ghosts get you first. The thrill of completing the maze is just as satisfying as the bleeping sound effects.
While the game remains massively popular to this day, nothing beats the original coin-operated arcade version.LEGO® designer Sven Franic is here to tell us how he turned the iconic 80s arcade game into a LEGO set...
The big idea
In the past, we’ve released LEGO sets based on retro gaming consoles, so what was next?
“We wanted to recreate the experience of the eighties and the joy that people got from the arcade games of that time,” says Sven.
“What makes PAC-MAN special was that it was the first game that didn’t include violence. A lot of the computer games back then were usually about destroying things. This is the only game that didn’t do that, so it had a much better gender split.”
While the LEGO designers stayed true to the game, some adjustments had to be made for a LEGO set.
“The original arcade cabinet is enormous with a very large base. Instead, we made a cut off version of the arcade game where the most aesthetic part is the focus and it’s still big enough to make an impact on your shelf.”
The mechanical maze
The coolest part of the LEGO PAC-MAN set is the mechanical maze that appears to move exactly like the real game by turning a crank on the side. When turned, the characters move around the maze in a realistic way, thanks to triumphant engineering efforts.
“I would say 70% of the whole set development was devoted just to that mechanism,” explains Sven.
“We developed a new chain element so that we can just attach these little characters to the side of it. There’s a little black chain that goes around inside with several functions connected all working together.”
What’s even cooler is that you can lift off the back to expose the mechanism and see how the LEGO functions work in real time while turning the crank. Fans will also find a little surprise in the set: a mini eighties arcade scene with its own minifigure!
Back then, arcades were booming, and kids came prepared with as many coins as they could. Nostalgic features have been added to pay homage to the original arcade experience such as the illuminated coin slot.
Sven added a red light brick behind the slot, to give it a glow effect just like the arcade games had.
Plus, the red joystick moves to replicate the movements of the real game.
And speaking of the real game...
“Playing PAC-MAN during the breaks was fun for me,” added Sven, who turned to the game as a sense of inspiration when he hit roadblocks in the design process.
The eye-popping characters
But he wanted to incorporate bigger, brick-built versions of the characters in the set to capture fans’ attention at first glance.
“The characters in the maze are so tiny as they had to be able to turn corners, so we wanted to represent the characters in an elevated way at the top of the cabinet too.”
And they aren’t there for just decorative purposes.“Once you press a trigger at the back, the ghosts spin around and turn blue, just like in the game when PAC-MAN eats a POWER PELLET.”
“The ghosts each had their own personalities in the game, and for this set we chose to feature figures of BLINKY and CLYDE.”
It was always meant to be
There were conversations around what shade of yellow to use for LEGO PAC-MAN.
During collaborations with Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc. (owners of PAC-MAN), Sven later found out that the yellow used on PAC-MAN was inspired by the yellow color of LEGO bricks. Seems like it was always meant to be!
“Not knowing that PAC-MAN was inspired by LEGO bricks was quite a funny situation, as we spent a lot of time wondering what shade of yellow to go for.”
So, there you have it, it was a match made in LEGO brick heaven! We hope fans love all the features of LEGO Icons PAC-MAN. Enjoy the thrill of the challenging build, and then display it at home as a reminder of simpler times and a little slice of childhood. What better way to pay tribute to an eighties icon?
PAC-MAN™& ©Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc.
Humble beginnings – the origins of PAC-MAN!
More than 40 years on and we’re still running from ghosts and chomping on cherries. Connecting the dots with the history of an a-MAZE-ing gaming icon.
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