In my 10+ years reviewing video games for various publications, I’ve written about some pretty weird stuff. When I was writing for the Dallas newspaper, Chex cereal at one point included a prize in every box: a PC game called Chex Quest (a family friendly Doom clone). Thinking it would never be published, I wrote a review of it as kind of a joke. But the joke was on me because the newspaper actually published it and it garnered some pretty positive feedback! Later, when I was also writing reviews of video game accessories and gadgets, they had me review a PlayStation memory card that was shaped like Lara Croft. I mean, how do you review that? I wanted to say, “It’s the only memory card with breasts,” but this was a family newspaper so I wisely used some restraint. And then there was the time where I wrote The Grinch video game review entirely in rhyme. Well today I’m going to continue that tradition of writing reviews of weird stuff with the Hallmark Pac-Man Christmas Ornament!
Every year, the Hallmark greeting card store releases a bunch of Christmas ornaments. Some are in collectors series (I have a complete set of the “Here Comes Santa” series, it’s Santa riding in various vehicles). Well this year, they made an ornament that looks nearly just like a Pac-Man arcade cabinet. And of course, as a huge Pac-Man fan, you know I had to get it!
The first thing I noticed about the ornament after I bought it was how light it is! That’s pretty important for a Christmas ornament because you don’t want a heavy ornament weighing down your tree limbs!
Many of Hallmark’s ornaments have light and sound, and so does the Pac-Man one. The ornament comes with a set of watch batteries for it, and they’re pretty easy to put in. But since it does have batteries and small parts, this ornament isn’t recommended as a toy for very young children. Another plus of it being battery operated is that you don’t HAVE to hang it on the tree (some light/sound ornament plug into the Christmas light strands). You can just display the ornament out all by itself all year (it also makes a good addition to any dollhouse game room). Anyway, by pressing the 1 or 2 player buttons on the right side of the cabinet, the marquee and screen light up as familiar Pac-Man sounds play. They play the timeless Pac-Man intro jingle, the wakka-wakka and siren sounds, the noise the ghosts make when Pac-Man eats a power pellet, and finally, the all-too familiar Pac-Man death sound.
There are only three very minor problems I have with the Pac-Man ornament. One, when the marquee and screen light up, the other plastic parts are so thin that it illuminates more than just what is supposed to. It kind of gives the arcade machine a little bit of a sickly, yellow glow.
The other problem I have with the ornament isn’t really a problem at all. But the artwork on the marquee and sides of the cabinet are not EXACTLY like the arcade machine. I should know, I have a full size Pac-Man arcade machine in my garage. But I imagine it couldn’t be helped. Namco probably wanted Hallmark to use their official artwork of Pac-Man as he is their mascot character and they are very picky about his likeness now. Just like how picky Disney is with Mickey Mouse. And it’s pretty understandable why they wouldn’t want to use the old Midway artwork on the cabinet. As a refresher, here’s what the original Pac-Man marquee looked like:
I mean, I can kind of understand the ghost, but you can’t tell me that red-eyed, large footed thing is really supposed to be Pac-Man! That artwork is just downright ugly! So again, that’s why I can understand why Namco would not want Hallmark to use that old artwork!
The last problem with the ornament is it’s a bit expensive. Sure it comes with batteries, but just at under 20 bucks, with today’s technology they probably could’ve let you PLAY Pac-Man on that ornament!
But again, those are very minor problems. It’s still a great ornament. In fact, I even had this idea for a Christmas ornament long before, so it’s kind of cool to see my idea come to life. I’d love to see them make a series of Christmas ornaments based on classic arcade cabinets. They could light up and have familiar names and characters like Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Asteroids, Centipede, or even Ms. Pac-Man! I hope all you gamers can go out and buy one of these Pac-Man ornaments to show Hallmark there’s a market for this.
What arcade machines would YOU like to see as Christmas ornaments?
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good chomp!