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Chomp chomp: the curious history of Pac-Man snacks

Oreo cookies is just the latest tie-in as the digital omnivore continues to flavour a giddy range of snacks around the world

This week, Oreo cookies announced a new tie-in with arcade legend Pac-Man. Fans can use their phones to scan any of the six different Pac-Man themed biscuits in the packet which gives them access to a neat mobile version of the classic maze game – each cookie provides a different maze layout. In the interests of research, I acquired three packets, and while the game is pretty good, it was tough to get my phone to recognise the cookie and it sometimes took so long I’d already eaten it.

Anyway, the offer is a sign of how immensely popular Pac-Man remains, more than 40 years after his debut. At the time of the game’s launch, the circular hero was almost unique, a lovable character in an industry dominated by spaceships, cars and guns. Its creator, Toru Iwatani, has said he wanted to make a game for everyone, so he used a simple protagonist with a name resembling the Japanese phrase “paku-paku”, a term for eating, while the sound design was ridiculously pleasing with its waka-waka noise and spiralling “game over” ditty. His eye-catching yellow colouring also recalled the Smiley character devised by graphic designer Harvey Ball – a symbol of the hippy era – and Iwatani even made his ghost characters cute rather than scary.

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