Deceptively simple, Fruit Ninja started life as a mobile title designed for smartphones and tablets. Earlier this year, the game made its way to the arcade as Fruit Ninja FX. Now Fruit Ninja is coming to the Xbox 360 as the fourth game in Microsoft's Summer of Arcade promotion.
At its core, Fruit Ninja Kinect is no different than the game that you've likely been playing on your iPhone or Android device. The goal is simple. Ninjas hate fruit, so it is your job to slice and dice as much fruit as possible. Skip the bombs, though. Slicing one of those is a fast track to failure. With Fruit Ninja Kinect, the rules stay the same, except you are no longer using your finger to slice. Here, it's all about using your hands (and feet, if you are adventurous) to chop your way to victory.
There are three primary game modes in Fruit Ninja Kinect: Classic, Zen and Arcade. Classic mode has no time limit, but it does have bombs. Miss three pieces of fruit, and it's game over. Slice a bomb, and it's game over as well. Zen mode removes the bombs and the ability to miss. Instead, it gives you 90 seconds on the clock and has you go to town. Getting a high score here is all about accuracy. The faster you eliminate the fruit, the sooner the next batch can make its way onto the screen.
Arcade mode is the most recent update to the original game and perhaps the most popular among players. Here, it's all about the score. Missing fruit doesn't matter and bombs don't kill you, though they subtract 10 points for every one you hit. Arcade mode also offers up some banana power-ups. One freezes the board, causing fruit to move slowly and making it easier to land tricky combos. Another gives you double points for a limited time, while a third dumps a bunch of fruit onto the board. You can combine power-ups for a massive score boost. In addition to the primary game modes, there is also a single-player challenge mode, which taunts you with progressively harder challenge goals.
One feature that Fruit Ninja Kinect borrows from Fruit Ninja FX is Party mode, which allows for two players to either play co-op or go head-to-head in real time. When playing co-op, the goal is to max out the team score. In head-to-head, all the fruit is colored. You need to slice your fruit, while ignoring your opponent's fruit. White-edged fruit is fair game for either player.
Party mode can be a tremendous amount of fun, but fair warning: Make sure you stagger yourselves in front of the Kinect. Playing side by side is flirting with disaster, as one of you is bound to end up smacking the other while reaching for a piece of fruit.
A game like Fruit Ninja Kinect could never work if the hand tracking wasn't spot-on, but that never seemed to be a problem. Much like Child of Eden, Fruit Ninja Kinect offers up impressively responsive Kinect controls. Every slice was accurately represented on-screen. When comparing scores between Fruit Ninja Kinect and the Android version of Fruit Ninja, we actually recorded better scores on the Kinect version of the game.
In fact, the only issue with the sensitivity may be that it's a little too sensitive when in the menus. During gameplay, having Fruit Ninja Kinect register every quick slash is a godsend. In the menu, not so much, as it typically means inadvertently selecting a random option.
Given that the core gameplay is so straightforward, Halfbrick had to do something to keep players coming back for more. There are unlockables and achievements, but the real draw is the weekly leaderboard. Every time you fire up the game, you're shown how you compare against your friends on the game selection screen. There's even an Achievement for beating a friend's score.
The only real glitch we encountered with Fruit Ninja Kinect had to do with lighting in the room. Fruit Ninja Kinect does its own auto-calibration routine whenever you start up a game. Most of the time, this worked perfectly, taking a mere second or two. Every so often, however, the game would seem to get into an auto-calibration loop, repeating itself quickly. Moving our position or turning on more light resolved the calibration issue.
It's also worth mentioning that Fruit Ninja Kinect is an incredibly active game. This isn't a casual, relaxing title with slow hand movements. It has you moving around constantly, to the point that 30 minutes to an hour of play can be downright exhausting. Don't be surprised if you wake up with sore arms after your first night of playing.
Ultimately, Fruit Ninja Kinect is a surprisingly impressive port that plays better than the touch-screen original. If you can't stand the smartphone original, the addition of Kinect controls aren't likely to sway you, but if you are one of the many with Fruit Ninja on your phone, then this is well worth your 800 MSP ($10 USD). The only real reason to hold off is if you're planning on buying The Gunstringer, as Fruit Ninja Kinect is included for free with that game.
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