Google Maps Pacman: company offers chance to play arcade classic on streets around the world

Game could be related to April Fool’s Day, but it really exists

Pacman can now be played in Google Maps, through a small button that allows anyone to play the game on real roads.

The game is activated by heading to Google Maps and clicking the little icon in the bottom left hand corner, next to the sign that usually allows users to switch between the map view and the satellite image one. Clicking the little Pacman image brings up the Pacman view, overlaying the game on the streets of wherever you were looking.

Some areas —  such as around the Taj Mahal — seem to have been chosen as perfect places to play the game, and as such have a huge Pacman marker placed in them. In those places, explorers can click on the button and have the Pacman game launch.

Google Maps offered cryptic clues to some of the other places on its support article for the new feature. Those include clues directing players to the Batu Caves in Malaysia and the Arc de Triomphe, as well as many more.

Google Maps, showing the area around The Independent's offices. The Pacman icon is in the bottom-left corner, next to the 'Earth' one

The only difference is that players have to navigate through whatever real life area they’ve chosen.

The area around The Independent's Kensington office, after it was virtually recreated as Pacman's territory

The app also works on the Google Maps app for iOS and Android, as well as the desktop client.

A Google blog post emerged shortly after the feature, explaining that: "With local place information and Street View, it’s easier than ever before to find where you’re going but there’s never been anything to let you know where not to go. With this update, we’ve added imagery of dangerous virtual beings, starting with Pinky, Blinky, Inky and Clyde.

"When navigating fruit-filled streets, determine at a glance which turns to pass to evade ghosts and get where you’re going safely," wrote Michelle Luo, product manager at Google. "When you’re feeling a bit peckish, you can simply gobble up a few pac-dots or a cherry and keep on nommin'."

It’s unclear whether the feature is related to April Fool’s Day, though Google tends to go in strongly for the celebration and the timing would fit. Indications in the blogpost also seemed to suggest the same, teasing future features including "zombie incident alerts and intergalactic Street View".

On April 1 last year, Google transformed the Android and iOS versions of Google Maps into a Pokémon game, allowing users to move around the real world and catch characters from the game. By going to real life places like the Empire State Building, players could "catch" characters and then view them in a mobile Pokédex.

And Google has made playable versions of Pacman before, making a working recreation of the game for its 30th anniversary and hosting it in a Google Doodle. That went live on May 21, 2010, and was said to have cost millions of hours of productivity around the world.

Then, Google senior UX designer and developer said: "PAC-MAN seems like a natural fit for the Google homepage".

"They’re both deceptively straightforward, carefully hiding their complexity under the hood. There’s a light-hearted, human touch to both of them."

The doodle was the first of Google's playable games on the homescreen.

The Independent has contacted Google for comment and will update this story as soon as any more information is available.