Pacman Soundtrack



by Liberi Fatali EMERITUS
September 26th, 2006 | 17 replies

Release Date: | Tracklist

Before encroaching any further on murky waters, one thing must be acknowledged. Of all the game soundtracks in the world, few come less appreciated than the Pac-Man soundtrack. The game itself may have revolutionized the arcade game world in the 1980s, yet many would cringe at the thought of calling Toshio Kai’s masterpiece ‘music.’

Pac-Man arrived at a time when the market was swamped with space-shooter after space-shooter after space-shooter. As you can imagine the sounds in the games were largely monotonic, in part due to the stone-age technology and also due to the lack of innovative composers. To match its vibrant personality and new direction, Pac-Man needed equally fruity sounds. It needed new textures that could match the colourful inhabitants of the game, and needed it to come out of a pitiful 3-channel mono speaker.

The mind boggles when thinking about how far the gaming industry has come since the days of Pac-Man, from 3-channel mono speakers and 4-direction controllers to Dolby Digital 7.1 and dedicated physics processing chips. As such it would be painfully unfair to compare the music of Pac-Man with the latest Nobuo Uematsu composed soundtrack or the latest Tony Hawk game soundtrack. As brilliant as Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2’s soundtrack was, it cannot touch Pac-Man for influence. Yes, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 may also be infinitely more enjoyable, but the one sound that will be remembered far beyond the two games lifetimes will be “waaka waaka.”

It may be less than one second in length, yet that “waaka waaka” sound is easily one of the most common and recognizable sounds from the game. Eating is up there as one of the most recognizable sounds from pre-stereo game music, along with the Super Mario Bros theme. Yet even Mario cannot compete with the minimalist masterpiece that is Eating, a tune that Brian Eno would be proud to put his name behind. Every sound in the Pac-Man soundtrack feels very digital and one-dimensional, yet when combined together, it creates an onslaught of sound, music. Mick Harris, former drummer of Napalm Death composed an album with 99 different moments of sound, ranging from 2 minutes 42 seconds in length to 5 seconds long. The concept of this album, titled Moments was that it would provide unlimited listening experiences when put on shuffle. Whilst perhaps unintentional, the Pac-Man Soundtrack provides an equally enlightening experience when put on shuffle. With each song lasting only a few seconds, the patterns formed when put on shuffle are highly absorbing. The music twists and turns, stopping and starting, pushing forward then coming to a halt. It may not be recognized by music intellectuals, yet Pac-Man offers an unintentionally unique experience.

The Pac-Man soundtrack can still act as guidance for modern game soundtrack composers. In recent years, a shift towards complex and highly bombastic compositions has been seen. Gaming soundtracks have borrowed from their movie brethren, with games such as Halo 2 and Final Fantasy XII borrowing heavily from the compositions of John Williams and Hans Zimmer. As epic as they are, with games these over-grandiose soundtracks often fail to capture the spirit of the game: Whereas the Pac-Man soundtrack in its simplicity captures the spirit of the game. As each dot gets eaten up the frantic pulsing continues to raise the heart rate of the gamer. The sirens of the Ghosts further add to the sense of urgency, with gamers frantically avoiding them in their pursuit of the dots. As much as they raise the heart-rate of gamers, never do they lose their sense of fun. The tones are colourful and vibrant, they bounce along together as gamers fall victim to the evil Ghosts known as Blinky (red), Pinky (pink), Inky (Cyan) and Clyde (orange).

Pac-Man was a phenomenon in its day, the highly addictive concept brought about massive changes in the arcade gaming world. Likewise it brought about a new era of gaming music. No longer were generic jingles acceptable, to truly enhance the experience music had to match the game itself. Pac-Man brought with it a soundtrack high in colour and flavour. The one-dimensional sounds, when combined, create a unique and tense atmosphere as gamers push themselves to escape the ghosts. Yet despite this, the music in Pac-Man has never been given the respect that its minimalist genius deserves. Toshio Kai might not have had any intention to create a minimalist masterpiece, yet with Pac-Man he has done so. Much like other cultural fads such as the Spice Girls and Pokemon, we find it far too easy to laugh them off; clearly disregarding the genius that engrossed the world in its day. Whether listened to in-game, or put on shuffle and repeat then let loose; the Pac-Man soundtrack absorbs the listener. Despite its simple, unmatched charm, the Pac-Man soundtrack has become the most misunderstood masterpiece in gaming music history. And whilst we may enjoy the highfalutin music of modern video games, we must not forget the genres minimalist origins. The Pac-Man has earned a spot amongst the video game music hall of fame; an accolade that even Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde can’t take away.

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user ratings (10)

Comments:Add a Comment 
September 26th 2006


Hahahaha oh man.... If only this had the game in it. A very interesting review of the soundtrack, but I dont know if this tops your other one :p

Liberi Fatali
September 26th 2006


Album Rating: 3.0

856 words about less than 22 seconds of music. >_>

Pacman Tip!

As you eat more dots, Blinky the red ghost increases in speed.This Message Edited On 09.26.06

September 26th 2006


Wow. This is surprisingly good for a soundtrack that only comprises of a few seconds.

September 26th 2006


I think I prefer the other review for this album :P

Staff Reviewer
September 26th 2006


Oh, the good ol' days. I wish the embedding still worked.

September 26th 2006


i like the review but this album sounds like absolute sh*t

John Paul Harrison
September 26th 2006


This would be genius, but lest we forget this isn't an original concept.

The Jungler
September 26th 2006


Fantastic and funny review, but it doesn't really match up to the other one, Which was a classic of modern writing.

September 26th 2006


I just played pacman in the lobby of my dentists office. I got past the first two "stages" but couldn't get past the red level. Pacman is such a fun and addicting game, I could honestly play it for hours
This review was great.

Liberi Fatali
September 26th 2006


Album Rating: 3.0

I wrote the other review and its sh*t, so you people must be whack-crazy.

September 26th 2006


what the f***This Message Edited On 09.26.06

September 26th 2006


Another one?

September 26th 2006


^Liberi wrote the other one too

September 26th 2006


OMG....i thought this was a joke...I have to ehar this

September 26th 2006


OMG....i thought this was a joke...I have to hear this

Fuck Sry...double do I delete the first?This Message Edited On 09.26.06

September 28th 2006


Very ontrospective review

(out to lunch)
waaka waaka waaka

April 27th 2008


I actually like the Pacman theme song. In fact, I liked it so much that I learned how to play it on guitar.This Message Edited On 05.05.08

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