Platform: XBLA (Kinect Required)
Developer: Halfbrick Studios
Publisher: Xbox Live Arcade
Halfbrick's Fruit Ninja is a simple joy that took mobile platforms by storm. Cutting fruit into pieces might sound like an odd mechanic to base a game around, but millions of gamers rallied to the gloriously addictive thrill of slicing and dicing through thousands of ripe coconuts, succulent apples and slippery strawberries. Countless bus journeys, morning commutes and hours upon hours of time flies by so long as you've got Halfbrick's app in your pocket. It's not big. It certainly isn't clever. But there's no doubt that Fruit Ninja draws satisfies our primal urge to cut stuff up - and cut it up good.
Fruit Ninja Kinect takes all of the original game's slick design, masterful execution and compulsive draw - and then proceeds to up the ante by turning your body into a lethal weapon.
At it's core, Fruit Ninja Kinect is the same game we know and love. Enormous volumes of fruit (sorry, but you're going to be seeing the F word a lot during this review) are tossed into the air from the bottom of the screen, with the objective simply being to cut them in half. You'll score points for each one you successfully hit, but highest scores can only be obtained by simultaneously slicing multiple fruit with a single chop. This score multiplier increases as you chain combos together, resulting in a game that's surprisingly tactical once you start to take bonuses. The basic, immediate thrill of the fruit exploding into showers of citric acid, cleaving along the planes at which you strike them, is also an immediate thrill that literally never gets old.
The original mobile version used tight touchscreen controls to facilitate this glorious orgy of orange obliteration, but seamless Kinect integration takes Fruit Ninja to the next (il)logical level. You silhouette appears on screen after a small amount of necessary calibration, meaning that you can use both hands as finely-honed blades while never losing track of their position. Impressive speed recognition means that you can move normally without fear of accidentally hitting bombs, but faster motions such as punches, swipes and chops are instantly translated into sword thrusts. Random flailing or powerful controlled blows are both equally viable (not to mention responsive) and an extremely physical workout to boot. Those extra endorphins are quite something, let me tell you. Kinect doesn't just provide another way to play, rather, it provides a better and infinitely more engaging option. Slicing up a cluster of ripe melons with your index finger is satisfying... but shattering them with a single powerful karate chop is about as satisfying as gaming can get.
You can also use your feet if you can get them in frame... though doing so without painful groin sprain would require a more limber specimen than my flabby self.
The main meat of Fruit Ninja Kinect is to be found in the three original game gametypes, which are practically unchanged despite the move to a home console. Classic Mode challenges players to engage in a tense battle against the odds, with an extremely limited pool of lives being depleted when you miss a fruit and bombs bringing the proceedings to an abrupt halt. On the other end of the scale, Zen Mode offers a stress-free distraction with no bombs or lives, a generous time limit and nothing standing between you and the highest scores possible. The Arcade Mode is probably the most entertaining of the bunch as it introduces a tight time limit and bonus banana power-ups that provide slow motion, double points and a frenzied flurry of extra drupes from the side of the screen. Post-game awards for netting giant combos will inspire you to greater and greater levels of hypnotic perfection... and the elusive pomegranate will cause you to explode into hectic, exhausting barrage of dual-handed slices.
Two players can stand side by side in order to participate in a cooperative or competitive minigame, which is as horribly messy and rampantly hilarious as you'd expect. Regardless of your preference, be sure to clear more than enough space as flailing limbs and poorly-directed Kung Fu techniques are bound to connect with anything you've left lying around. As well as direct local shenanigans, players can challenge their friends on global leaderboards and participate in a series of scoreboard challenges. Self-betterment will probably still be the main driving force behind the hours you'll sink into chopping those luscious, juicy and delicious targets, but it's equally good fun with or against a mate.
Visually, Fruit Ninja Kinect is a spruced-up, crisp and high definition version of the original iOS version; remaining practically identical whilst honing absolutely everything to a pixel-perfect shine. Unfortunately the menu and GUI layout hasn't been altered to bring it in line with Kinect's full-body motion control, meaning that it's all too easy to accidentally select the wrong game modes and navigate in general. Fruit Ninja Kinect is also inaccessible from the Kinect Hub, which is an inconvenient oversight that highlights how poorly Microsoft have integrated their new peripheral with the core experience.
So, could a game that's technically identical to a one dollar app ever be worth a premium price? Yes. A thousand times, yes. Fruit Ninja Kinect is simple, effective, hilarious and brilliant; never willing to compromise good honest fun with anything that could dilute or degrade it. If you've got a Kinect sensor, this is practically a killer app.
- Outstandingly physical Kinect integration
- Classic Fruit Ninja action
- Hilarious rampant fun
- Awkward menus
- Annoying to navigate to from the Kinect Hub
- Admittedly light on new content
The Short Version: Fruit Ninja Kinect is probably the most fun you can have with your shiny black sensor. In fact, it's probably the most fun you can have with your body. Riotous fun factor and outrageous addiction easily justify the price tag, making Halfbrick's latest port an essential purchase for Kinect owners.
Note: there's one important caveat to this review. Halfbrick has confirmed that Fruit Ninja Kinect will be bundled with The Gunstringer (slated for release on September 16th from Twisted Pixel)... so it might well be worth waiting a month and killing two birds with one stone.