Halfbrick’s Fruit Ninja has always appeared to be somewhat of a surprise success. With gameplay so simple, it’s almost puzzling as to why so many gamers on iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7 formats would opt to purchase a title that is seemingly less technically accomplished internet-based flash game and less rewarding than a Facebook application. However, it’s this simplicity that is Fruit Ninja’s greatest strength: an accessible high-score-chasing game that’s just as addictive as it is easy learn.
In the latest edition of the game, Fruit Ninja Kinect, this core gameplay hasn’t been altered; merely adapted to fit the new control mechanic. Players still slice-and-dice fruit that flies onto the screen, avoiding bombs whilst not letting any fruit drop out of sight. However, in Fruit Ninja Kinect, it’s not your fingers across a touchscreen that do the slicing, but rather your hands (or potentially your feet) via the Kinect device that do all the work. High scores are achieved with combos, hitting multiple fruit with one swipe, but with the Classic mode allowing only three lives (with extra lives awarded at key points in the game) and bombs abruptly ending your run, games of Fruit Ninja Kinect are often short live affairs, but of course this only further lends the game to that ‘just one more go’ effect, that never really is just one more go.
The Zen Mode included in Fruit Ninja Kinect has been altered significantly form its Xbox LIVE counterpart on Windows Phone 7. Whilst it is still presented as a more ‘easy going’ variation of the gameplay, the Zen Mode now offers a series of challenges increasing in difficulty. These typically revolve around achieving a set score within a predetermined time limit, with bombs and lives still typically being the reserve of the Classic mode. Objective heavy, Zen Mode quickly became the favourite gameplay mode of the Electronic Theatre office during our playtest of the game, with the set challenges providing a greater sense of achievement when first learning the game than beating your own high scores.
A new addition for this version of the game comes in the form of a very special fruit. A large purple fruit hold the key to an automated zoom and slowdown function, allowing you to attack it again-and-again, racking-up many points with accuracy and speed. It’s not difficult to earn an additional fifty points with this new fruit, which can certainly have a significant impact on your current high-score run.
Beyond all of these additions however, come the all new two-player modes. Battle Mode and Team Arcade see the two players working competitively and co-operatively respectively, standing side-by-side. Both modes essentially play very similarly, but with the motivation changing: the Battle Mode offers both players the opportunity to attack all the on-screen fruit for their own gain, whereas the Team Arcade offers a collated score. The two-player gameplay modes in Fruit Ninja Kinect are a welcome addition to the game, offering that party game feel for which Kinect was made, but beyond a Friday night revelry they’ll rarely be chosen as the evening’s entertainment.
The game is designed around the Kinect technology well, arguably one of the most responsive games the hardware has yet played host to. The silhouettes of the player or players set against the familiar wooden backdrop is a fantastic design decision that allows players to interpret distance and speed far greater than any mini-game compilation currently available for Kinect, and yet creates an intuitive control system that after the first swipe doesn’t require any more direction. And that’s Fruit Ninja Kinect’s greatest strength: its immediacy. It’s a game that’s unlikely to present a rewarding gameplay experience beyond a few nights of energetic antics with friends, possibly bringing into question the relatively high asking price of 800 Microsoft Points, but as straight-forward, uncomplicated fun, Kinect currently offers very little in the way of competition.