In an age where smartphone advocates are gloomily predicting the End of Days for dedicated home consoles, it’s incredibly ironic that one of the best-selling iPhone and Android titles of all time (over 20 million downloads, and rising) is made even more compelling by its fusion with Microsoft’s home console-based Kinect peripheral.
Although many doubted just how well the touch-screen game would transition to the controller-free environment of Kinect, we’re pleased to report that developer Halfbrick has done an excellent job — and in the process may have delivered the kind of release that unifies the casual and hardcore gaming fraternities in perfect harmony.
The premise of Fruit Ninja — and by direct association, Fruit Ninja Kinect — is blissfully simple. For whatever reason, you’re a member of an elite band of warriors that specialises in chopping fruit. You can tear foodstuffs asunder simply by slicing them using your arm, and the resultant splatter of pulp and juice is as rewarding as you might imagine.
In the game’s main ‘Classic’ mode you’re expected to slice as many fruits as possible whilst avoiding the deadly bombs that occasionally creep onto the screen. Failing to slice a fruit results in one of your lives being deducted, but for every 100 points you score, you regain one life.
To begin with, just hacking the pesky fruit and avoiding the bombs is enough to keep most gamers busy. However, as you become more skilled in the art of banana-slicing and apple-dicing, you in turn become more confident. You’ll start delaying your slices until you can desiccate multiple fruits at one fell swoop — doing so not only adds those fruits to your tally, but also a neat combo bonus.
You’ll also learn one of the biggest differences between the Kinect edition and the smartphone original: it’s infinitely more satisfying to perform more than one slice at a time. You can use both arms and even your legs, if you’re feeling energetic, to register a slice on-screen, which might make you look demented but is great fun.
Granted, randomly flailing your arms around will ensure that you never drop a single fruit, but in the Classic mode it also means you’re much more likely to strike a bomb and bring the game to a shuddering conclusion. Bombs mean instant Game Over, so no matter how well your windmilling may appear to be going, there’s always the chance that you could throw it all away due to your lack of finesse.
Fruit Ninja Kinect therefore becomes a more measured and clinical game, possibly even eclipsing the tense nature of the touch-screen edition. You’ll find yourself stalking around the screen, watching for flying fruit and skillfully contorting your limbs so that you avoid triggering an unexpected bomb.
As well as the Classic mode, Fruit Ninja Kinect also boasts additional features that have been carried across from the mobile editions. The Zen mode removes the bombs and allows you to slash to your heart’s content. The Arcade mode gives you sixty seconds to raise hell, with bombs subtracting from your score rather than ending your game. There’s also a Challenge mode, which taps into the repetitive fitness ethic of games such as Zumba Fitness and UFC Personal Trainer by offering you a fresh task each time you play.
However, by far the most appealing aspect of Fruit Ninja Kinect has to be the Party mode. This enables two players to participate in simultaneous fruit destruction, and as you might expect, it’s an absolute hoot. Few Kinect-based titles can generate the same mirth and merriment as a game of Fruit Ninja between friends, although it goes without saying that a large space needs to be cleared beforehand, unless you wish to suffer injuries from rapidly swinging arms and legs.
Fruit Ninja Kinect’s social element extends beyond playing it with someone in the same room, however. If one of your Xbox Live buddies is playing the game and beats your personal best score, you get told about it next time you log on. Like EA’s innovative Autolog in Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, this system works amazingly well and will ensure that you remain hopelessly addicted to the challenge of constantly improving your score.
Although Fruit Ninja Kinect is easily one of the most instantly gratifying and addictive games we’ve yet seen on Microsoft’s motion-based gaming platform, it sadly shares the same shortcomings of its predecessor.
The completely random nature of ‘critical’ slices (super-powerful explosions which add a large dollop of points to your score) is annoying; it would have been better to award them based on your skill. There’s also the issue of repetition; Fruit Ninja Kinect is fantastic when sampled in small doses, but don’t expect it to stand up to hours and hours of constant play (your arms will probably give up before you can get to that stage, anyway).
However, these are relatively minor infractions and they’re easily brushed aside when you’re leaping around your living room like a complete fool, with a friend or family member doing the exact same. Critics may point out that Fruit Ninja Kinect doesn’t offer anything that Sony’s PS2-based EyeToy camera didn’t several years ago, but the combination of refined and accurate technology with gorgeous presentation and immensely appealing gameplay makes this a peerless product on Kinect right now.
Could it be that Fruit Ninja is the crucial game which silences the critics and proves that Kinect can provide something that just isn’t possible elsewhere? While that particular battle is probably a long way from being won, with recruits like Fruit Ninja Kinect filling up the ranks, it’s surely only a matter of time before the hardcore pledge their allegiance.