A couple of years ago if you’d thought to ask anyone what kind of Ninja they’d like to be, you could bet no one would have said Michael Dudikoff. But more importantly no one would have said a Fruit Ninja either. After all, what’s so cool about playing a deadly killing machine with a thing against fruit? What did fruit ever do to anyone? Except maybe causing the occasional bad stomach or zest in the eye of societies more careless individual.
Thanks to Halfbrick it turns out that almost everyone wants be fruit slashing master, all because of their phenomenally successful title for iPhone and Android. Now the game makes its way to XBLA, with the honor of being the first title on the download service to use Kinect.
In fact, unlike some other titles like Child of Eden, Fruit Ninja Kinect isn’t some sort of half and half concoction that gives you the choice between a traditional control scheme or Microsoft’s camera peripheral. In this version the only control option is Kinect and if you don’t have one then you won’t be able to play it, plain and simple. That’s unarguably a bold move given the widespread criticism over the accuracy of the system – the question is, does this title work well enough to persuade people otherwise?
Before we get to answering that, for the sake of anyone who doesn’t know about Fruit Ninja, the concept is relatively simple. You are a Ninja. There is fruit. Lots of fruit. Using your hands as weapons of five-a-day justice you must slice all the juicy items that fly up or across the screen, getting bonuses for slicing clumps of three or more at a time.
There are a variety of different game modes to Fruit Ninja which effect the way the basic concept plays. For example, in Classic mode you have to avoid missing any of the fruit and hitting the bombs that also appear, since each mistake will rob you of one of your lives and eventually result in Game Over. Zen mode, as the name suggests,has no bombs resulting in a somewhat less stressful experience. Arcade mode has the player trying to slice as much fruit as possible within sixty seconds, where missing fruit doesn’t matter, but striking bombs will rob you of vital play time. New to this version of the game is Party Mode, which is essentially a two player mode.
Regardless of the version played it’s an incredibly simple, but well executed, concept that suited touchscreen devices, with your fingers flicking across the screen to slice up items. With Kinect the player is left using their hands as instruments of fruity destruction and thankfully this also works well. It’s undeniably responsive (plus you can play it sitting down, alleviating that particular worry for all couch potatoes whenever a Kinect title is mentioned) but unfortunately the sensitivity does take a little bit of getting used to. Halfbrick must have known that accurate control was the key by which the game would succeed or fail and so undoubtedly cranked it up to make sure a lack of response to your flailing limbs wouldn’t be a complaint.
At first you’ll need to get used to the slightest movement of your arms slicing up the screen. While this isn’t really problematic during gameplay, where things need to be a slashing frenzy if you want a high score, the real place it causes issues is during the menus. Because the options are bunched close together it’s often easy to activate them without really meaning to. This means either entering the wrong game mode or ending up retrying a level when you just wanted to quit out.
These quibbles aside, this Kinect enabled version remains as much fun as it ever was. With its bright, cheerful and slightly irreverent style, there’s something very addictive at play which keeps you coming back until your aching arms and sweaty brow force you to stop. There’s just the right amount of challenge to slicing up the fruit and trying to beat your personal best / climb your way up the leaderboard, with lots of unlocks too incentivise others, ranging from different backgrounds to different sword trails, plus the obligatory Achievements and Avatar Awards.
Anyone who’s already gorged on the fruit decimating action via other formats might not find much to persuade them that they need to buy the title again, even at its initial price of 800 Points. Party mode, as fun as it is, probably won’t even be enough to persuade them. But if you happen to own a Kinect and are looking for something fun to while away the hours, then Fruit Ninja could be all the arm waving vengeance you could possible wish to bestow on innocent pieces of fruit. Just be warned – because you’re sitting down doesn’t mean you aren’t going to break a sweat.