There weren't a great many solid titles released for Microsoft's first foray into motion-controlled console gaming, but few could argue that Fruit Ninja Kinect was anything less than a cracking game. Easy to get into, fun to play, and devilishly addictive, the game was ported from mobile platforms with aplomb by Halfbrick. So it stands to reason that an improved sequel should provide much the same in terms of quality, right?
A quick look at the title would indeed back that theory up. At first glance, Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 is bright, colourful, fun to play, and ferociously addictive. Kinect for Xbox One holds up well in the face of your chopping and slicing, and as well as the Classic, Arcade, and Zen modes, a host of new game variations have been thrown in for good measure. Multiplayer is available for up to four players – two at a time with quick changes – and a new levelling system sees you trying to complete challenges in order to raise your rank to become the ultimate fruit hacking champion.
This levelling system is a nice addition, but it has some problems. At any time, there are three possible challenges to beat, with each completion resulting in you being awarded a medal. Once you beat a challenge, it's replaced with another one for you to take on. Collect enough medals and your ninja level goes up. This is all well and good and is a nice way of doing things, for the greater part. However, there's an issue with regards to the game's randomness. Naturally, Fruit Ninja has random elements. If every game was identical, it would be boring to say the least. But the levelling system doesn't always take that randomness into account. At one point, one of the challenges we were dealt was to combine a "Frenzy" and a "Freeze" power up in the game's arcade mode. That would be fine, but since the power ups are dealt randomly, it took us eight rounds of play before they appeared together. Fortunately, the game is fun enough to carry you through such apparent hardships, but these missed steps happen more often than we'd like to see, especially when you consider that the ninja rank is apparently based on your skill and not on dumb luck. A couple of the game's achievements are unobtainable unless you're incredibly lucky, too. That isn't a great scenario.
Fortunately, the key thing to take away from that paragraph is that Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 is indeed fun enough to keep you playing. The new modes see you avoiding spotlights, avoiding and throwing shurikens, and slicing seeds before they land and sprout into giant stalks of bamboo that will obscure the playing area. These are nice attempts at adding a little variety but in truth, once you've done everything you realistically need to do in terms of gaining unlocks, you'll likely not play them again. They just don't add enough to the core Fruit Ninja experience to even think about becoming as addictive and playable as the standard modes.
Those standard modes are where you'll spend most of your time in single player play, trying to beat your high scores and striving to top the leaderboard, as well as trying to beat the aforementioned challenges in order to max out your ninja level. Sure, it's nice to have the variation of the new modes, but you can't beat the classics, and they're as entertaining as they ever were this time around. There's scope for many hours of play here – as there often is with the simplest ideas and just a scoreboard to beat – and on top of all that, you get a pretty decent upper-body workout for your money, too. It may not be a hardcore gym session and while it might not keep the doctor away, an hour a day of Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 is a fun way to get the old heart rate up a bit.
When you're not using it as an excuse to avoid pumping iron, you'll probably want to check out the game's dedicated multiplayer modes – Party and Battle – but there are a few issues of note. The actual fruit slashing action works as it should, but one section in the Party mode which sees you being asked to strike specific ninja poses just doesn't work properly. You can match what's being shown on screen perfectly, and there's about an 80% chance that you'll be told that you've done it wrong. Indeed, we played five rounds in a row where neither player managed to get a single point in those sections. Outside of those dedicated multiplayer modes, the game boasts that a second player can jump in and join the action in what are usually modes reserved for single players. All they have to do is walk into view of the Kinect sensor, and wave. We just couldn't get this to work, no matter how hard we tried or how many times we recalibrated the sensor. The game recognises a second player and indicates that they should wave to join in, but then doesn't recognise the wave. On top of that, the command to pause the game in any mode – which is to put your hands together and bow to Kinect – works whenever it feels like it. It fortunately doesn't trigger randomly, so doesn't spoil gameplay, but when you need to pause the game, nine times out of ten it just won't happen.
The key thing to take away with Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 is that even though it has some issues and is essentially more of the same, there is still plenty of fun to be had here. Given the game mechanic, there wasn't really much that Halfbrick could do that would work without ruining the purity of the experience. They're to be applauded for adding depth to the single-player modes, even if the multiplayer experience has issues. Outside of the noted problems though, the game controls perfectly and doesn't miss a step, and if you were a fan of the original then this is an absolute no-brainer.