Google Pac-Man Doodle latest in string of classic ones

Topeka April Fool's gag, Pi Day and Winter Olympics doodles among 2010 highlights

During a week in which Google has had no shortage of headlines (the company held its I/O conference, got the go-ahead for its AdMob buyout and broke into the TV business), it's the interactive Pac-Man Google "Doodle" above its search box that really has Web users buzzing.

Network World sister site GamePro writes that "Namco's big yellow guy turns 30 today and Google celebrates by turning their logo into a playable game of Pac-Man for the day. This "doodle" (the official name for Google's holiday makeovers) has 255 levels plus a 256th-level kill screen, just like the original arcade game."

An "Insert Coin" button next to the Google Search button triggers the game.

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The Doodle has generated much discussion and celebration on the Web, though Technologizer writer Jared Newman questions whether Google is taking a little digg at Apple too by providing a version that works on the iPhone and iPad. "I prefer to think that Google's beating Apple at its own game by creating a version of Pac-Man that runs nicely on the iPhone without App Store approval," he writes.

Google's previously most buzzed about Doodle this year was its April Fool's gag: The company switched its logo to spell Topeka in a nod to Topeka, Kansas, which earlier had announced plans to change its name to Google in order to increase its chances of having Google wire the community through its broadband plan.

Google also got its share of publicity by celebrating Pi Day in mid-March in honor of Ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes' first rough approximation of Pi as being 3.14.

Other cool Google Doodles this year included a Winter Olympics series and a tribute to the Hubble Space telescope's 20th anniversary.

Google is coming off a strong 2009 in terms of Doodle creativity as well, adding an extra 1 in its name to celebrate the company's 11th birthday and celebrating Sesame Street with a series of colorful designs.

Google says the Doodle concept started in 1999 "when Google founders Larry and Sergey played with the corporate logo to indicate their attendance at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert."

The Doodles have become so popular that malware scammers have figured out ways to exploit them by raising in search results pages that are likely to be searched on by those clicking on Google Doodles.

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