The OnePlus Nord 2 x Pac-Man is being aimed like a rocket at the best gaming phones. Featuring one of the most iconic characters in all of video game history, it’s a love letter to the franchise and a surprisingly powerful smartphone to boot.
Sure, it won’t be able to go toe to toe with premium equivalents such as the Samsung Z-Fold 3 or iPhone 13 Pro and there are some strange oversights. But the OnePlus Nord 2 x Pac-Man is an impressive mid-range option that gets you solid performance for its £499/€529/₹37,999 price-tag nonetheless (sadly, it’s not available in the USA). In short? It’s a good choice if you want something different.
OnePlus Nord 2 x Pac-Man – features & design
Operating system: OxygenOS 11.3 (Android)
Display: 6.43in Fluid AMOLED
Resolution: 2400×1080 pixels
Refresh rate: 90Hz
Front camera: 50MP + 8MP + 2MP
Back camera: 32MP
CPU: Media Tek Dimensity 1200-AI
GPU: ARM G77 MC9
Many themed products – be they the best gaming chairs or the best gaming headsets – can be obnoxious when it comes to design. Not so with the OnePlus Nord 2 x Pac-Man. In fact, it’s surprisingly restrained. A subtle version of the original 8-bit character can be seen on the back of the device (following a trail of shiny dots along the phone’s length), and… that’s about it for the physical phone, to be honest. Until you get it in darkness, anyway; when the sun goes down, a very cool but still classy glow-in-the-dark maze pattern appears.
Switch it on and you’re treated to some more old-school treats. Besides authentic ringtones and a cool video background that explodes from a retro landscape to the more modern Pac-Man, this phone’s OnePlus icons have been replaced with pixelated video game versions that give it a distinct presence.
Similarly, the touch sensor features a geometric Pac-Man at its center and a parade of ghosts that dart around the perimeter when you unlock the phone with your thumb. There’s even a pair of ghost eyes on the lock screen clock and Pac-Man 256 built in.
It’s all completely unnecessary, of course, but that’s what makes it cool. A lot of thought has gone into this crossover, and more than you might expect.
Under the shell
Don’t worry if you think you’ll get bored of these features, though. Each of them can be swapped out for something more to your taste, as per usual. Doing so is as easy as diving into the settings too, so it’s no problem if you’d prefer to scale back.
That’s because, at its core, this is still very much the OnePlus Nord 2 – it’s just had a new coat of paint.
To start with, it’s packing the same 6.43-inch AMOLED display with the 90Hz refresh rate. Additionally, the same 50mp AI triple camera is here (the Sony IMX766, to be precise) alongside a nippy Media Tek Dimensity 1200-AI processor.
In essence, it’s a very competent device for this price-point.
OnePlus Nord 2 x Pac-Man – performance
This version of the Nord 2 charges incredibly fast with the cable you get in the box, and the battery will still be hovering at around 60% after a day’s standard use along with a few gaming sessions. 256GB of storage is more than enough for the average person, too.
As you’d expect from a device bearing the Pac-Man seal of approval, this version of the OnePlus Nord 2 is great for playing games. It loads apps quickly, is pleasantly responsive, and has plenty of screen real-estate at its command without becoming too large to hold in one hand. Yes, it lacks a killer app like the ASUS ROG Phone 3 with its ‘Air Triggers’ that replicate a controller’s bumpers, but it’s still very good nonetheless.
It boasts the OnePlus ‘Pro Gaming Mode’, too. This limits accidental mistouches where you might activate the menu during a game without meaning to, and it blocks all notifications or calls that might prove to be a distraction while you’re playing.
The 90Hz refresh rate is also rather nice. While it’s a bummer that the phone doesn’t have a 120Hz screen to match the flagship OnePlus models (which aren’t all that much more expensive) or Samsung’s S21 range, it’s still welcome and will make twitchy games like Call of Duty: Mobile smoother. If you’re used to 60Hz, it’s a nice step up as well – albeit a subtle one, unless you’re scrolling on both phones side by side.
And if we’re being honest, it’s not fair to ding the Nord 2 x Pac-Man for not having a 120Hz display. That’s often the preserve of more premium devices such as the iPhone 13 Pro or Samsung Z-Flip 3, so it isn’t surprising to see this mid-range contender skip that technology in order to keep costs down.
No compromise… sort of
The gorgeous AMOLED screen impresses enough to make up for any shortfall, though. Colors pop with a vivid intensity, and booting up Mario Kart Tour on this beauty is a visual sugar-rush. Even browsing the web leads to sharp, rich imagery. It won’t blow you away in the fashion certain competitors would, yet it does the job very nicely.
Cameras are another plus point – relatively speaking, anyway. While you can get something better without paying loads more, this is the sort of phone that’ll serve any snap-happy user well. Providing detailed shots with HDR and AI adjustments that make colors seem more vibrant than they are in real life, it’s a good companion for all your Instagram needs. Smart features including the Dual View Video (taking footage from the front and back cameras simultaneously) add to the wow-factor too. None of it results in mind-blowing photography, but the results are definitely serviceable all the same.
When combined with up-market build-materials, this Nord 2 feels more premium than it actually is. You aren’t going to feel ripped off or as if you’ve compromised.
Unfortunately, there are some issues holding it back from being a home-run. If you don’t want to use a case (I wasn’t a huge fan of the one that comes in the box, for instance), the phone seems intent on sliding off any and all surfaces as if it’s slicked with Vaseline or is being pushed about by a particularly vindictive ghost. It doesn’t seem to matter where you leave it; somehow, the device will find a way to slip onto the floor the moment your back is turned, just to spite you.
What’s more, there’s a baffling lack of water-proofing here. Most phones come with some form of protection at the very least, but the OnePlus Nord 2 x Pac-Man has… nothing. It’s strangely absent from the spec list, which seems like a big problem.
It’s the same with charging. Although you can get a very quick charge with the cable and plug included in the box, it’s a shame not to have any wireless charging capabilities. It’s just as well that the battery life will still be going strong after a full day of general use and gaming sessions.
Overall – should you buy the OnePlus Nord 2 x Pac-Man?
Let’s talk brass tacks, shall we? Even if you’re not a die-hard fan of Pac-Man, you’ll still be able to appreciate this phone for its generally excellent feature-set and specs. You won’t have to fork out a small fortune, either; this is an affordable, mid-range device that still packs a punch. It’s great for gaming, too.
However, there’s a catch. Is the Pac-Man overlay worth the extra cash? Unless you’re a fan or want a unique phone with a gaming edge, probably not – you’re getting what is fundamentally the same experience as the standard Nord 2, only for more money upfront (especially when you consider the cheaper Nord 2 model with 128GB of memory). Plus, the absence of water-resistance and wireless charging is a blow. As such, I’d recommend grabbing the base model or paying just a bit more to get something better.
3.5 out of 5
OnePlus Nord 2 x Pac-Man
If you’re looking for a unique, mid-range phone with a gaming edge, the OnePlus Nord 2 x Pac-Man hits the right notes. However, strange oversights stop it from reaching its full potential.