Google Maps adds playable Pac-Man game on city streets

Search engine company Google has added a button to its Google Maps mapping software that lets users play the classic arcade game Pac-Man on city streets.

Cursor keys will navigate a flashing Pac-Man icon through the streets

An image of Google Maps is shown as it looked on Tuesday, with a playable version of Pac-Man superimposed over a section of Toronto's streets. (Pete Evans/CBC)

Google has added a button to its Google Maps software that lets users play the classic arcade game Pac-Man on real city streets.

Google Maps users noticed on Tuesday the presence of a new button, toward the lower left of the screen, that converts whatever cityscape the user is looking at into a Pac-Man map. 

The company sent out this cryptic tweet on Tuesday, suggesting something with a Pac-Man theme was coming.

Then a support page on Google's corporate website offered hints and tricks for the game.

It's not clear if the new feature is tied to April Fools' Day, the arrival of Easter this weekend (such hidden online gems are often called "Easter eggs" by video gamers) or something else. Last year, Google made its mapping page a playable version of the video game Pokemon.

Whatever the reason, a Google Maps user can tap the cursor keys to navigate a flashing Pac-Man icon through streets and away from four ghosts from the game — Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Clyde.

(Based on CBC News's exhaustive research, if you do well enough, you can even move up a level.)

The game doesn't work on all maps, however, as it requires a certain complexity of streets. In rural areas or over water, users get a message that says, "It looks like Pac-Man can't play here. There aren't enough roads in the area for Pac-Man to get around" and instructs them to try again somewhere else.

On mobile, the game only works if the user is in certain locations. If the user solves a riddle, a button appears that lets the user play the game by swiping different directions on a mobile device.

This isn't the first time Google has made a Pac-Man themed game for its users. In 2010, the company's logo on its home page converted into a playable version of the game. That time, Google users wasted a collective 550 years' worth of time on the page, digital consultancy Rescue Time calculated.