I’m a sucker for a good video game book: I’ve even written some of my own (if you’ll forgive the cheap plug).
That also means I’ve read my fair share of them, and I can safely say Pac-Man: Birth of an Icon is easily one of the best video game books I’ve read in a long time.
The two men responsible for the book are Arjan Terpstra and Tim Lapetino. The pairing is something of a dream team when it comes to video game books as the pair were separately responsible for two of the best books in recent times.
Terpstra was one of the designers of the exceptional Sonic the Hedgehog 25th anniversary book, which contained a host of high-quality concept and promotional art from Sonic’s first quarter-century.
- Buy Pac-Man: Birth of an Icon from Amazon UK (£32.99)
- Buy Pac-Man: Birth of an Icon from Amazon US ($50)
Lapetino, meanwhile, wrote the similarly fantastic Art of Atari, which contains not only a host of original artwork from ‘80s era Atari games but is also packed with interviews and information from their creators.
As someone who owns and loves both books, it’s great to see both creators coming together with a book dedicated to Pac-Man, and the results are suitably outstanding.
As its name suggests, the book covers the history of gaming’s first ever iconic character, from his debut appearance in 1980 all the way up to a little name-check at the end for this year’s Switch Online title Pac-Man 99.
The book is split into nine chapters, each covering a different period of Pac-Man’s history. Initially giving an overview of the growing video game market in Japan as it left the ‘70s and moved into the ‘80s, the book then obviously moves on to the story of Toru Iwatani and how he created ‘Puck Man’ in the first place.
It then covers the game’s subsequent huge success in Japan, its even larger success in America and its continued growth as his family members arrived on the scene.
Although the rest of the book touches on the later Pac-Man games (and there’s a nice section near the end that covers literally every release he appeared in), the majority of the book is dedicated to the original game.
Understandably so, of course: that’s the one that truly exploded and that’s naturally the game with the most to write about. That said, if you’re looking for something that pays similar attention to later games in the series you may be left wanting.
However, the amount of detail and information shared on the original Pac-Man is nothing short of breathtaking, with countless pieces of artwork, flyers, merchandise pics and high-quality photography.
The book even contains the first ever English translation of Toru Iwatani’s memoir, Pac-Man’s Method, in which Iwatani discusses his career at Namco and gives insights into video game design.
There are two versions of the book: the Standard Edition contains the full 300+ page hardcover book in a dust jacket, and sells for $55.95 / £32.99.
The Collector’s Edition, meanwhile, goes for $99.95 and contains the same book, a special hard box designed to look like the game’s infamous ‘broken’ level 256, and a slipcase shaped like Pac-Man.
It also contains an extra folder, designed like the red ghost Blinky, which holds an exclusive Pac-Man arcade token and a reprint 7” vinyl single of the wonderfully terrible Pac-Man Fever song released in 1982.
Regardless of which version you end up with – the Standard Edition is probably enough for all but the most ardent Pac-fans – the result is an absolutely exceptional tome that has to be considered the definitive, final word on a legendary character.
Pac-Man: Birth of an Icon is available now from Cook & Becker