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The OnePlus Nord 2 Pac-Man edition proves brand collaborations can be fun
Is Pac-Man relevant enough to drive sales for OnePlus? Does the titular orb chomping away at dots and the occasional ghost really have the clout to attract a Gen Z audience? The cultural relevance behind a 40-year-old video game character collaborating with a smartphone brand is not a discussion I imagined having on a Monday afternoon in the Android Authority Slack channel, but here we are. The OnePlus Nord 2 Pac-Man edition is a real thing.
Brand collaborations come in many shapes and forms, but the premise behind them is usually straightforward. A co-mingling of brands with some shared ethos with the end goal being to drive more sales, of course.
Read more: OnePlus Nord 2 buyer’s guide
The OnePlus Nord 2 Pac-Man edition is, however, one strange beast. The Shenzhen company has a history of one-offs for its flagship series. From the McLaren editions channeling a sense of speed, to Avengers-styled phones piggybacking on the coattails of hype around Marvel’s latest movie. Meanwhile, the Harry Potter edition OnePlus Watch pandered to the evergreen Potter-mania with a set of watch faces and a monogrammed leather strap.
The Pac-Man edition, on the other hand, makes no obvious sense. Pac-Man might have cemented its place in video game history, but it would be far-fetched to call it a system seller. The character itself is recognizable, but hardly appealing to a youthful audience compared to say the Cyberpunk edition OnePlus 8T that looked like a prop straight out of the video game. I’d be veering deep into tin-foil hat territory if I claimed the whimsical orb fleeing ghosts could be an analogy for OnePlus fleeing its enthusiast-focused past, but I digress.
The OnePlus Nord 2 Pac-Man edition is, to put it simply, a showcase of a company having fun with a brand collaboration. The phone is a stellar example of a playful and nostalgic homage to one of our earliest collective video game memories. I’d go as far as saying that the company’s first mid-range limited edition has gone bolder and more whimsical than anything we’ve ever seen yet from OnePlus, and I’m here for it.
The OnePlus Nord 2 Pac-Man edition is a fun and nostalgic homage to one of the most recognizable video game characters.
At first glance, all you’ll notice is a dotted pattern on a bluish-silver back panel. A Pac-Man logo sits emblazoned below the camera module. A second logo marking the collaboration is placed next to the camera. The phone, however, is the literal definition of business in the front and party at the back. By day, it is a rather straightforward-looking device. The design doesn’t stray too far from the standard OnePlus Nord 2 and could even pass off as a regular Nord 2 when looked at from a distance.
Step away from the light though, and the back panel lights up with a glowing maze pattern that integrates elements of the reimagined 2.5D Pac-Man 256 as well as OnePlus. The glow-in-the-dark elements add a stunning visual flair and a gimmick that hides away in plain sight. It’s not all that far away from a video game easter egg and I love it.
These subtle nods to video game history extend to the software experience too. Sure, you’ve got the interface customizations that we’ll get to in a few, but the company has gone the extra mile with easter eggs strewn in an assortment of apps like the calculator and charging experience as well. I haven’t spent quite as much time with the pre-installed Pac-Man 256 game just yet, but OnePlus says that playing the game for 256 minutes will unlock a set of photo stickers as well.
The subtle animations around the fingerprint scanner and in the notification shade are a delight to look at.
Elsewhere, you’ll find Pac-Man-themed wallpapers, ringtones, and animations. The custom animation for the fingerprint scanner is particularly delightful in how ghosts go chasing after Pac-Man while you unlock the phone. I wish OnePlus had gone for a full custom icon pack but the redesigned 8-bit icons for stock OnePlus apps are a nice touch. The notification shade also gets a throwback to old-school arcades and the original Pac-Man game with an electric blue border around it.
The little additions and changes tally up to a software experience that goes well beyond anything we’ve seen before from the company. It is easy to see the effort and depth of customization here. More importantly, all the changes neatly tie together as a cohesive and rather joyful user experience.
You’ll even find a custom camera filter that adds a CRT-style filter and overlays floating characters from the Pac-Man universe. It’s a nice touch.
The customizations extend to the in-box case as well that is decorated with Pac-Man characters. Buyers of the special edition will also get a free Pac-Man-themed desk stand. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get my hands on that to take a closer look.
Brand collaborations come in many forms. Samsung’s Thom Browne edition phones, for example, take a much more subdued approach with a much simpler, chic design which, I suppose, works for the intended audience. But as someone who toted around the OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren edition for almost two years, I’d say even that phone fell a bit short of truly embracing what McLaren stands for.
The OnePlus Nord 2 Pac-Man edition leans into the game's aesthetic and makes the fun, frenetic design its own.
The OnePlus Nord 2 Pac-Man edition is the polar opposite of that. It co-opts the fun, frenetic nature of the game and truly leans into the game’s aesthetic. As someone who juggles dozens of phones at a time, it is rare that a phone’s design sparks joy.
Watching the Pac-Man characters racing across the fingerprint scanner brought a smile to my face every single time, and I often found myself holding the phone to a bright light just to admire the glow-in-the-dark back panel. I’m not one for camera filters, but I had a whole lot of fun trying to chomp down on the overlaid ghosts. Sure, Bandai Namco is probably hoping to grab more attention towards the pre-loaded Pac-Man 256 game, but the phone itself does little to actively push users towards the micro-transaction-ridden game.
Available in a single top-end SKU with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, the OnePlus Nord 2 Pac-Man edition (₹37,999/£499/€529) is available in all the key markets for the company. The limited-edition phone is one of the best examples in recent years of a smartphone brand getting the memo and building a phone that would be truly appreciated by fans and gamers alike.
While it doesn’t fix the problems inherent to the OnePlus Nord 2 itself, the slight premium over the regular OnePlus Nord 2 is well worth it if you are in the market for an affordable, limited-run phone that strikes a perfect balance between being a tool and a design statement for video game enthusiasts.