LEGO Icons 10323 PAC-MAN Arcade – Reinventing a beloved classic [Review]

In 1980, Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc. released a little arcade game revolving around a pizza-shaped character eating his way through a maze, being chased by ghosts. They knew they had a good thing going, but they probably didn’t realize it would be one of the most beloved games of all time and a pop-culture icon. Now, over 40 years later, they teamed up with The LEGO Group to bring us an epic tribute to the original game. Join us as we chomp our way through the 2651-piece LEGO Icons 10323 PAC-MAN Arcade, which will be available June 4th and retail for US $269.99 | CAN $349.99 | UK £229.99.

The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

Unboxing the parts, instructions, and sticker sheet

The box is mostly what you would expect it to be, however, it does a poor job of explaining the functions. You have to look closely to see the tiny arrows denoting movement, but there really isn’t much to explain how the movement occurs. Additionally, the “batteries included” symbol on the front may throw you off. While batteries are included in the little light brick, this is not a motorized set.

Inside the box are 24 bags numbered 1-14, an unnumbered bag, and a pair of Technic baseplates, new in black.

Instead of being a replicated image of the box art on the instructions, we have a nice classic depiction of the characters. As usual, the first several pages are dedicated to information about the collaboration. What I found most interesting was that in 1980, when the game was first released, the original creator, Toru Iwatani, chose the playful, cheery yellow after he was inspired by LEGO’s signature color.

The sticker sheet for this model has 18 stickers, including a couple of the largest size LEGO makes. I’m going to come out and say right now that I have a some opinions about these stickers. I’ll get back to that in a bit, but for now, I’ll just say that my primary frustration is they were misprinted.

The build

Fortunately, there are some prints in the set, and these come in the form of the characters and the tiles that create the maze. The picture below only shows the first group, which are for the topper. And luckily, we get extras of the characters.

The topper starts as a straight forward box, but quickly develops some interesting features. Inside sits some gears and a gear rack with a rubber band attached to it. A very simple but sort of awesome feature of this set is something LEGO doesn’t do very often – we build a tool to help align the gear placement.

With all the gears aligned appropriately, an axle connected to the gear rack acts as a button. At this point we take apart our tool, which we will use later in the build.

Blinky and Clyde are fairly reminiscent of the BrickHeadz line. On one side they have printed eyes, and on the other they have a stickered mouth. Overall they are very cute and along with PAC-MAN, are cleverly designed.

I love how simple and wonderful this mechanism is at the same time. Once again I have to use the terms clever and cute to describe the execution of this assembly. The feel of the mechanism is nice too, in terms of the resistance when you press the button. The only (very minor) negative here is that if you push the button in all the way (which I’m not doing in the GIF below), the characters sit diagonally instead of in a line.

Setting aside the topper, we move the the base of the game cabinet. Here we lay the foundation and install the light-up feature.

The 2×3 light brick sits against a 2-axle rubber Technic connector. This piece provides the spring needed to return the button to the extended position.

The same rubber Technic element is used to create the internals for the joystick. The pieces are held together with an axle and a 4-bar axle hub, and are attached to the surrounding brick with a pair of L-shaped axle connectors.

There is some nice technique with hinges used to create a lovely slope at the front, and we clip in a separate assembly for the faux coin slot.

All buttoned up, it looks pretty slick, and we’ve only just started.

From there we fancy it up a bit with detailing and some stickered 6×6 tiles.

This is where I first noticed a problem. I was trying to center the stickers and no matter how carefully I lined them up, they were always off-center. After a few frustrated attempts, I finally realized my issue was that the artwork was not centered on the stickers themselves. I also noticed white flecks here and there, which, while tiny, just added to the frustration and disappointment.

After the base is complete, we start progress on the sides of the game cabinet. The wall is dual layered to allow for a black interior and a yellow exterior. It also makes it so the large side decal tiles can be flush. I’m so glad they chose to go this route!

Halfway up the wall we get our first look at part of the main mechanism, but there still isn’t much to see yet, aside from some down-gearing.

You may have noticed above that there is something interesting going on in the walls. It happens in two locations on each side, and consists of interlaced brackets with plates and tiles making them flush with the face of wall. This is part of what keeps the whole thing strong and locked together.

With the sides two thirds done, we add a bar across the back for extra bracing.

An interesting technique is used to both further enforce the connective beam, and provide a place for the “screen” to be clipped into. A bar with stopper is fed through a pair of Technic elements connected by a pin, and is then pushed into a receiving half-pin within a Technic brick. Soon you will see that pushing bars through pins is an incredibly common theme in this model.

Now we place those large tiles in their homes. Once again, the issue with the stickers was very annoying. The artwork is right on the edge of the sticker. Fortunately it looks okay surrounded in a sea of yellow.

And now for the surprise that you may have been waiting for! If you’ve been scratching your head trying to figure out how the primary mechanism works, you’re in for a treat. The set features a new mold in the form of a chain link with an attached bar. This baby opens up a whole world of possibilities and I’m sure will be most welcome amongst the GBC (Great Ball Contraption) folks.

The “screen” itself must have taken a massive amount of trial and error to get accurate. Right off the bat we use a solid handful of pins and half pins, just in the bottom half. But more exciting is the black recolor of the Technic baseplate, as well as the same recolor of the 16-tooth gear.

Inky becomes our first ghost to enter the maze (or soon to be maze). He is attached to the new chain-bar element via a black cone.

Similar stuff takes place on the top half and the two are joined together. Pinky, Blinky, and PAC-MAN join Inky on a separate, larger track that takes up a huge portion of the sub-assembly.

A careful array of gears, wheels, and beams will ultimately give the illusion that they are turning sharp corners.

And what about all those little pellets that PAC-MAN eats? Another clever bar-through-pin technique allows 64 of them to be mounted with that distinct look.

All of them are added in a single step, which looks terribly daunting. However, the manual gives a really good “road map” of exactly where to place them.

Next, we cover up most of the random free studs and the actual maze emerges. It is comprised of 1×2 round plates, and new 1×3 round plates. The whole thing is shrouded in 1x4x2 panels.

Another pile of printed tile comes into play to give the maze that characteristic definition. In addition to 1×2, 1×3, and corner tiles, we now have two 2×2’s and two 2×3’s.

With those on, the whole thing really pops. Placing the bars through the pins to make pellets completely sells the floating-in-space look. This it probably the most genius part of the whole build.

Clyde is the final ghost to enter the arena. Another excellent technique involves his sub-assembly resting atop a spire element and secured in a slot with tile.

He is brilliantly connected to the cherry, so that he slides back and forth while the cherry wiggles. As you soon will see, this is all accomplished in a single mechanism with the rest of the characters.

The back of the “screen” looks like some sort of circuitry board – and it’s not exactly light. Each of the main axles from above are now completely pushed down and affixed to gears on the opposite side. A driving axle is then attached via a few Technic connector pieces.

With the final addition of a linkage element, the whole thing moves as one. Brilliant! But I’m going to make you wait a moment before we see what it looks like from the front…

The final thing we add to the “screen” before it goes into the cabinet is the score keeper. On the front, a sticker reading “HIGH SCORE 16440” is affixed to a black 2×6 tile. Another sticker reading “1UP” is affixed to a clear window, leaving a spot to see through. Around back, a cylinder element is decorated in four stickers, and the whole thing can be turned by a dial.

This mechanism is not connected to the main section at all, and it’s a little stiff, but it’s nice to have nevertheless. Designers tend to hide personal touches within models, and I would love to know what these numbers represented to them, if anything other than standard scores.

Once that is added, the sides of the “screen” are finished off with tile and plate so that they look all nice and tidy.

It’s satisfying to finally get to add this section to the cabinet. The whole thing is really taking shape and just puts off a rad vibe. My only critique is that it’s not a snug fit so there is a tiny bit of daylight on the sides, especially if it’s not totally centered.

We’re talking a very minimal amount of wiggle-room though. The “screen” clips onto the bars I mentioned before so it can’t really go anywhere. And with the back panel on, it’s so dark that you don’t notice the gap.

Then we finish up the sides in preparation for the top.

We can’t forget one of the most important features! We need to add the faceplate! This part is attached via axles with stoppers to a beefy sub-assembly that locks everything in nicely.

With the faceplate mounted and the cap on, it just looks awesome, and the finished edges are so clean! The faceplate itself is printed, which is a huge plus. It makes the whole thing feel more exclusive and high quality. I have to make another nitpicky critique here, though. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the space between the “A” and “C” is smaller than the one between the other “A” that’s cut in half. Fortunately they are not skewed up or down, out of alignment, but the print positioning isn’t 100% perfect.

Okay, now I’ll stop holding out on you… From the front, the mechanism is incredibly smooth and satisfying. Without the back on, though, you don’t get the full effect yet, because the light coming from behind shows the holes and bits you rather not see.

I was not expecting the back door to be a pull-down or completely removable, but I like it! Once again we have something with a satisfying feel to it. The main body is comprised of plate and large 8×16 tiles. The latching portion uses a tow ball for a pull and a tow ball hitch to fasten it to a receiving ball inside. Instead of brackets, this section is mounted to the door by way of “espresso handles” inserted into 1×5 rotor plate axle holes.

Interestingly, we don’t put the joystick on until last. Perhaps this is like the cherry on top of a great build experience. It feels just like a joystick should.

While we’re here we add the final dummy button to the build. Of course, we can’t do that without playing with the real button. It was quite a clever idea to kill multiple birds with one stone. Not only does it offer the satisfaction of a tactile button, but it also delivers joy in that ever-familiar coin slot glow.

But we’re still not quite finished! Before we look at the model in its entirety, we need to complete the extra build that goes inside…

The vignette and minifigure

This model includes a little vignette to fill up the empty space in the back. The build process begins with floor tiling that is very reminiscent of an 80’s arcade.

Outside of the Speed Champions line, this is the first time we’ve seen the new rounded 1x1x2/3 SNOT (Studs Not on Top) brick. They are used in the body of the tiny arcade machine.

Speaking of which, this thing is totally adorable and well-designed. The sticker trouble strikes again though. As you can see, the “PAC-MAN” sticker is riding low, and the others are all skewed slightly to the right.

Other items included in the vignette are a gumball machine, a stool, and a trash can.

The gumball machine is very cute, but it’s empty, which is sad. I think there was a real missed opportunity here. The orb-like “helmet” element sits on top of a clear minifigure head. They should have printed that head with colorful gumballs and it would’ve been epic. Plus they could’ve reused it over and over again in other models. Instead, I used my “Paradise Falls” coin bank from my recent LEGO Disney Up House review to give an idea of what it would look like.

The completed arrangement is a little crowded, but still looks nice.

The kit includes a single minifigure, and while most of her parts are common, her torso doesn’t disappoint. It features Pinky the ghost peeking out from beneath a dark red jacket with a PAC-MAN button on it.

The whole thing fits nicely, tucked away in the belly of the cabinet.


The completed model

With the vignette complete, we are now finished building the entire set. One of my first general observations was that it seemed a bit smaller than I thought it would be, but it’s actually a perfect size. It’s not a model that’s necessarily going to consume your whole bookshelf. And without the topper, it’s not really that tall overall. It’s roughly the same size as a modular building.

A big win for this build is that, while it’s unfortunately not “playable” in the typical sense, it is definitely packed with play features. And once again, the mechanism is both smooth and mesmerizing.

It’s a little counter-intuitive that the crank moves toward you instead of away from you (viewed from the front), but that’s not a problem. I still can’t get over the cleverness behind connecting all the characters together. Behind the scenes is almost as mesmerizing as the front.

With the topper on, the model almost looks like a slot machine. It adds a fancy touch that is greatly appreciated, especially with its functionality.

The remnants of the sticker sheet paint the picture of how poorly the artwork was centered on each sticker. In some cases, the artwork was right on the edge of the sticker, in danger of actually being chopped off.

Conclusions and recommendations

Overall, this is a beautiful, well-executed model. It earns its place on your display shelf both in looks and in play features. There really are few faults to find with the build itself. As a builder whose niche is building arcade machines, I was beyond excited to review the set, and I wasn’t disappointed. It has been a joy both to construct and play with.

I know I keep harping on the sticker situation, but I think it’s a very important topic to discuss. Everyone has their opinions about stickers. I used to be a hater, but in more recent history I haven’t minded them, especially after reading Edwinder’s lovely article on the purpose of stickers. At times I even like them. However, with an expensive, exclusive, special model like this, at least the primary artwork should have been printed. Hands down. I wish I could just make that one note and move on, but I can’t. It’s not only a little annoying to deal with stickers, but it’s also a gut punch to have them be misprinted. Hopefully my copy is an anomaly, but if you find yourself in the same boat, you can always reach out to LEGO customer service to request a replacement sheet.

To end on a high note – because I think this set deserves it – don’t let my previous paragraph dissuade you or color your thoughts on the model as a whole. I’ll repeat myself in saying that it was – and is – a true joy. I would recommend it to anyone with even the slightest interest in LEGO, gaming, nostalgia, or just plain old fun.

While you’re here, stick around for some of our other recent reviews, as well as articles related to LEGO arcades and arcade machines.

LEGO Icons 10323 PAC-MAN Arcade will be available June 4th, and retail for US $269.99 | CAN $349.99 | UK £229.99.

The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

5 comments on “LEGO Icons 10323 PAC-MAN Arcade – Reinventing a beloved classic [Review]

  1. chrisweagel

    This is a fantastic review. Thank you for all the hard work. The images and animation really help in explaining this set’s unique functions. The thought and design put into the various mechanisms make this set justify itself against comparisons to actual arcade cabinets. There is much to learn from the design that I can apply to my own creations that I hadn’t considered before seeing these images.

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