Pacman was everywhere in the 1980s.
First introduced by Namco as an arcade game, it wasn’t long before everyone knew about the pizza-shaped character and his ghostly adversaries. There was a Pacman clone for just about every imaginable video game console, a tv series, top 10 pop song, handheld versions, board games and, of course, the watch.
Nelsonic had two versions of Pacman game watches, one with a joystick (the joysticks were plugged into the watch so invariably they disappeared and it’s rare to find one today with the joystick intact, let alone the four different-coloured joysticks the watch originally came with) and a far more practical version with four buttons for direction control. The game layout and LCD were quite different so they can be considered entirely different watches.
Originally they cost USD25-35 and Nelsonic produced a tonne of them — more than 500,000 apparently. Nowadays, if you could pick up a broken one for USD25 you’d still be thinking you got a great deal because they can sell for upwards of USD300.
Like many of the handheld Pacmans of this time (including the Texet Grabman) the Pacman character can only eat dots when facing toward them (so only in a right-to-left movement) which makes the game a bit more challenging (some would say frustrating and annoying) but this didn’t stop people getting some great scores.
The first wave sees Pacman avoiding one ghost, there’s two on the second wave, and third and subsequent waves, three. There’s also power pills which give Pacman five seconds of invincibility, and randomly appearing fruit as well. Reaching 1000 sees the player’s pacmen restored and the game can be played with sound or silent (which must have led to many wasted hours in the classroom for some)!
This particular Pacman watch is close to mint condition, but it didn’t start that way.
Originally bought in a lot of two on eBay, of which one was scratched up but partially working and the other one totally dead, I was hoping to end up with one working version, and the additional parts used on my rare Platron Jungle Kong.
The non-working model I was able to get working but it unfortunately had a fault in the chip where the right button is permanently energised, meaning if you press quickly and rapidly on the left button the Pacman would move, but would automatically move itself right again as soon as you stopped. I’ve had this before with a Conso Space Shuttle and despite eventually cutting all the traces from the affected button the behaviour endured, ensuring that watch would become display-only.
The partially-working model had a bad LCD, and was missing segments and characters all over the place, but otherwise working so from the available parts, including swapping cases, I was left with one perfectly-working Pacman in excellent condition.
And, as an added bonus, I was able to use the caseback, battery holder and screws to bring the Jungle Kong to 100% as well — great result all round!