Just ahead of April Fool’s Day, Google has struck again by allowing users to turn any small section of Google Maps into a Pac-Man game you can control with your computer arrow keys. Fire up a section from Maps, zoom in enough so there are a lot of streets that fill the view, and click the Pac-Man button at the bottom of the screen to Pac-ify your surroundings.
A couple of tips: try to pick a map section without a lot of fiddly turns and angles. Getting Pac quickly through such chicanery can be murder. Also, since any roads heading off the sides of the section become like the tunnels in the original arcade game, be careful moving through them. You might not come out the other side where you expect.
Who said traffic in Toronto wasn’t any fun?
It might come as a stinging shock to people that Atari’s Breakout arcade game is 37 years old. Some of the sting might be mitigated, however, by the clever way in which Google has seen fit to pay tribute to the milestone.
Breakout was a clever one-player riff on Atari’s first (and, in fact, the world’s first) mass-produced coin-op video game PONG. Instead of two-people bouncing a little blip of a ball back and forth with paddles, one person could bat the ball with a paddle situated along the bottom of the screen, against a wall of bricks that would shrink in size with each impact. The speed of the ball would increase as the size of the brick wall would decrease, leading to a mad scramble to eliminate the bricks before inevitably missing the ball and losing a life.
The game was conceived by Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell, but actually assembled by an early, vegetarian hippie Atari employee and his nerdly friend. Their names were Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
To see Google’s own riff on the concept, just enter Atari Breakout into their image search field. For more history of Breakout, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.