Over the course of our lives thus far, most of us have probably thought about how cool it would be to slice through a bunch of fruit with a samurai sword. It’d surely be a blast, but then we wouldn’t want to clean up the mess or waste all that food. Worriers need not focus on that problem anymore as Fruit Ninja Kinect is about to slice its way onto the XBOX 360 as part of Microsoft‘s Summer of Arcade promotion.
Now, you can slice up all sorts of different environmentally friendly fruits, without having to worry about getting the colourful stains out of your clothes or towels, or having to wash down the walls. That’s certainly a win – wouldn’t you agree?
For the uninitiated, Fruit Ninja is an incredibly popular little title that hit hit portable communications devices by storm in the past. Many commuters, cellphone addicts and gamers alike have spent countless hours slicing away on their touchscreen devices such as an iPhone or Windows 7 Phone. It’s a very simple game, but one that is incredibly addicting.
You’re tasked with slicing fruit as it pops up in the air like colourful popcorn, trying to get combos and high scores while watching out for the odd bomb which flies into the frame. As in most games, bombs are dangerous. Not only do they destroy all of the fruit around them, but hitting one also means an immediate game over. At least, this is the case in the standard mode known as Classic.
In order to succeed in this standard game option, you must be methodical and know what you’re looking for. At times, several types of fruit will appear at once. Though, at other times, a few types of fruit will pop up in the company of a couple bombs. Allowing a piece of fruit to drop out of your field of on-screen vision means a strike, with game over occurring one you reach the well-known three strike allotment we all know and love in baseball. That is, unless you hit a bomb first. Just take your time and keep your wits, slicing only the fruit, making sure that none fall.
The odd pomegranate will show itself amidst the colourful rainbow of bananas, strawberries, lemons, kiwis and others, acting as a power-up. It explodes after a certain amount of time, though you get the chance to swipe at it before it does so, sometimes hitting bonus point awards of around 40-50. When these appear, it usually means that you’re close to a hundred plateau. What is meant by this is that your score is getting close to the one hundred mark, or subsequent hundreds. When this occurs, one strike is eliminated from your pile, awarding a sigh of relief and some extra breathing room to work with.
As you can expect, this mode gets harder as it goes on, popping more explosives into the air to try to trick you. The game is always trying to trick you into slicing a bomb, by putting the fruit in close proximity. Because of this problem, it’s important to keep your mind and wait for a good time to slice at the colourful items, avoiding the evil black combustible ones. Most of the time, you’ll get lucky as three fruit will line-up and allow for a nice combo. Though, sometimes creativity must be used in order to make sure that you get all of the fruit before it falls into oblivion.
Packing its virtual bags and departing for the motion-controlled facets of the Kinect peripheral and XBOX Live Arcade, Fruit Ninja Kinect allows gamers to bring the popular mobile game into their homes. Now, instead of swiping away at a small touchscreen, players themselves are the controllers. Your shadow appears amidst a basic (yet customizable) background, giving a great indication of the amount of screen space you cover and how far you can reach away to slice fruit. The objective is completed by swiping your left and right hands like a katana would cut through the air, delivering blows that immediately cut the healthy food items into half. The premise and control scheme are both very simple, but man do they work well. Not only that but, if you’re like me, you won’t be able to stop slicing virtual fruit until your arms start to hurt.
In addition to the core Classic mode, there are two other single player options as well as a couple multiplayer challenges: player versus player score attack and dual slicing. For solo ninjas who like to slice alone, there’s Zen mode which strips away the bombs and lets you go for high scores amidst the backdrop of a time limit, as well as Arcade mode. The latter one is certainly my personal favourite out of the three, as it is less methodical and much faster. Like its name, there is a resemblance to classic arcade titles from the past, which required quick decisions and fast reflexes.
Instead of having to worry about a game over via bombs, you only need to worry about purple explosives that decrease your score by ten points. The goal is the same: to score as many points as possible, but the immediate game over/three strike system for falling fruit is gone. It’s replaced by the need to quickly score as many combo slices as possible, with the use of three different power-ups (a score multiplier, the chance to slow down time via a freeze banana and a frenzy power-up that sends out a ton of fruit at once from both sides).
Going in, I wondered how the Kinect sensor would do with this type of game. Precision would have to be there in spades in order to prevent the experience from becoming overly frustrating and utterly unplayable. After putting several hours into it, I can happily report that it works incredibly well. The game’s mechanics feel like they were imagined for this motion controller from day one, with the great amount of work that Halfbrick put into bringing the game to our achievement-popping consoles showing well. Everything they put into it was worth it because this game is one great tech demo and fun experience for anyone who bought Microsoft‘s motion-controlled venture.
Before you start slicing, the game calibrates the camera at its menu screen. Your shadow will be placed proportionally into the background, once it notices your build and location. This works very well and allows for motion tracking that is both accurate and precise, leading to a great amount of immersion. Being such a simple game to control makes it very accessible for those of all ages, allowing for a great party game or something fun to play with your kids. Everyone will find it impressive in how well it’s able to track their shadows and read their movements, though it’s not perfect. There are the odd occurrences where it’ll think you swiped at a menu option that you didn’t move towards, but it’s easy to overlook as those moments aren’t very frequent.
The co-operative and cooperative Party mode options both work really well, as the camera does an excellent job of distinguishing the position and movements of the two players taking part. There weren’t any noticeable issues within this component, which was nice to see. In fact, the multiplayer modes were quite a lot of fun. During single player modes, Kinect does detect other players’ limbs, but will not allow them to interfere with gameplay by slashing fruit. They can however affect it by blocking the sensor from properly tracking your movements if an arm, leg or torso is in the way. Due to this, it’s recommended that you have people stand off to the proverbial sidelines while you’re playing solo.
As can be expected, the transition to high-definition benefited the colourful fruits as they look quite a bit nicer with added detail. The unlockable backgrounds, sword themes (animations that occur when you swipe) and different shadows add incentive and visible flair as well. It’s not the most visually impressive title around, but there’s no need for that. For what it is and needs to be, this game looks great, and does a great job in every department that we ask it to. The fact that different coloured fruit juices splatter their way onto the backdrop canvas is also a nice touch, creating a bit of colourful mayhem while it lasts.
Earlier in this review, I made mention of how the fruit pops into the air almost like popcorn. Most of the sound effects you’ll hear have the same buttery theme. There’s lots of popping noises (with a different one for bombs) as well as the squishy sounds you’d expect from fruit being sliced into and splattered upon the backdrop. The music isn’t anything to write home about, but does its job and isn’t overly obtrusive. However, it takes a back seat to the sound effects which are used as audible clues. Not only that, but they’re also one of the main factors in adding a great amount of immersion into your fruit-slicing ninjitsu.
Our favourite retro games relied on addicting gameplay mechanics as opposed to hours and hours of content that took millions of dollars to produce. Fruit Ninja Kinect is the same, replicating that type of short-burst yet addicting experience. It is quite challenging but isn’t overwhelmingly difficult, walking that great line between being not being too easy and never being too hard. The most important aspect is that it’s simply fun – a blast in fact. Once you start, it’ll be hard to step away because the fun factor is very high. Leaderboards and friend challenges make it even tougher to stop as you try to climb the score mountain.
Overall, Fruit Ninja Kinect is a very fun and addictive game. It’s simple, yet well-designed and makes great use of the Kinect peripheral. There’s the odd issue with movement detection, but nothing overly prevalent that occurs often. If you loved previous iterations of the game or happen to be a first time slicer, this one is certainly for you. That is especially true if you’re one of us who have always wanted to hack away at fruit with a large katana. Do it in virtual confines and avoid the mess!
A very fun and addicting game, Fruit Ninja Kinect makes great use of the motion sensing peripheral. It's well-designed and feels like it was always designed just for Microsoft's new device. Once you start, it'll be hard to stop.