Released in 2010 for iOS, Android and Windows phones, Halfbrick Studios’ simple fruity slash ‘em up was met with critical acclaim and has since sold a total of over 20 million units. A year on, and Fruit Ninja finally makes the jump to XBLA for Kinect, so how does it perform?
For newcomers to the game, the premise is simple: fruit gets randomly thrown up from the bottom of the screen and you score points by slashing it all with your hands. Occasionally, bombs and power-ups will appear, penalising or rewarding you respectively should you slice them. You need to score as many points as you can, bonuses are achieved for slicing multiple fruits in one go, so it pays to get your timing right and line up as many combos as possible. At heart then, this is a true arcade game; no levels or bosses, it’s all about beating that high score!
But is it worth 800 Microsoft points?
800 points equates to £6.80, which is quite expensive when you compare it to the couple of quid it costs for your mobile. To be honest, you don’t get much more for your money either. The only major difference is the controls. Using the Kinect sensor, the game plants a silhouette of you in the background and uses your rapid swiping hand movements to cut the fruit. After using your fingers as blades on the mobile versions, using motion control with your hands is the next logical step. It works very well. A big positive from using your hands as primary weapons means the game knows it doesn’t need to see your whole body. This is great news for those of you who are space-starved Kinect owners. Aside from the odd calibration problem, the game tracks your movements with a fantastic degree of accuracy and almost no lag. I say “almost”, there is the tiniest of pauses sometimes between you swiping your hand and the game registering it on-screen. However, this is a rare occurrence and does not detract from the playing experience. For those of you who want to test it, yes, you can use your feet as well! Since you are only on-screen from the thighs up though, you need to be quick and get your legs high enough in time. Don’t try this with two players; it can get a bit fighty if you both try to roundhouse a couple of lemons on opposite sides of the screen.
For such a basic game, Halfbrick have pulled out all the stops to create a visual feast. The colours in Fruit Ninja Kinect are bright and vibrant and the fruit explodes in all its juicy glory. The scores are big and clear on-screen while you play, so you never feel as though you have to strain your eyes to keep up with what is going on. Sound effects are limited, but let’s face it, did you really expect more than a “swoosh” and a “chunk” from a game like this? One thing that pleasantly surprised me was the music. Despite being just the one oriental-themed track, I didn’t once find it annoying or overbearing. You are aware that it exists while you play, but that’s it. Perfect ambiance.
There are several game modes to choose from when you start up Fruit Ninja Kinect. The first is Classic. Here you have to score your points while living off of three lives. Every time you slice a bomb or let a piece of fruit drop to the bottom of the screen you lose a life. But fear not ninjas, you regain a lost life for every 100 points you score. The game continues until you lose all of your lives. The next mode is Arcade. Rather than having lives, here you have a sixty second time limit in which to score points. The bombs are still there though, taking ten points off you with every hit. As an added slice of fun (see what I did there?), the final few seconds of each round end in a big pomegranate being launched straight up into the fray. Frantic hacking is the aim here, as you can land multiple hits on it before it finally gives up and explodes. My best was well over the fifty mark, so give it your all! If you really go for it then it also becomes a very effective arm workout.
Power-ups appear in the main game in the shape of different coloured chillies. Double Points gives you twice as many points per hit/combo, Frenzy throws a ton of fruit at you from all angles and Freeze slows down everything on-screen. All of the effects are short-term and instantly disappear the moment you hit a bomb. Zen mode is for the armchair ninja who doesn’t wish to be plagued by bombs or power-ups; nothing to do but slice away for a minute and a half. Finally, for the lone player, there is Challenge. Here the game will, quite simply, set you a challenge to complete such as reaching a certain score. None of the challenges are particularly interesting though and I only found myself trying this mode a couple of times.
If you have a friend you can have a go at the two-player modes. There’s Team Arcade where you fight the fruit alongside each other using the same rules as the single-player Arcade. It’s worth noting that the game will seamlessly convert a single-player Arcade game into Team Arcade if a buddy steps into the play area next to you. This saves a lot of time and effort going through menus. Then there is Battle Mode in which each player is given their own colour fruit and must only slice the fruit in that colour. Tactics can be employed to coax your opponent into making a mistake and hitting your fruit instead. As fun as Battle Mode may seem, the game does tend to favour one player which, after a while, will likely send you back towards the Arcade modes.
At the end of every round, regardless of the mode, you are presented with the leaderboards. These allow you to see how your scores compete against those of your buddies and is really the only long-term hook. The problem with Fruit Ninja Kinect is that, unless you always have a friend with you to compete against, there is no longevity. On your own, the game becomes stale after just a few rounds. There are no difficulty settings to provide that extra layer of challenge. It’s all a bit too flat. There is a small saving grace in the form of Sensei’s Swag, where meeting certain criteria unlocks new blade and shadow effects and backgrounds. These can be mixed up however you like in Sensei’s Swag and used in the main game. Although a good idea in principle, it’s not enough to spice up the gameplay. No doubt there are some out there who will spend days striving to unlock a new blade by scoring three hundred points in arcade and not hitting any bananas. Not me. The same goes for the achievements, most of which will be unlocked without thinking, so there’s no real need to worry about them.
For a quick pick-up-and-play with friends, or if you simply have the MS points going spare, Fruit Ninja Kinect is worth adding to your collection. Just be aware of its limits and take it at face value. This is a game that looks great and works very well with the Kinect sensor, but hasn’t evolved enough from its mobile roots to truly warrant its price on console.
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