Fruit Ninja Kinect from Halfbrick Studios is a high energy game that has you slicing a veritable supermarket of fruit while challenging your dexterity and hand-eye coordination. This title features precise and accurate control that is among the best on Kinect, but suffers from calibration and usability issues inherent to the platform.
The premise of Fruit Ninja Kinect is simple: slice fruits lobbed from the bottom of the screen with virtual swords using your hands and/or feet to score points. Though a bit short on content, the game offers three single player modes, two local multiplayer modes for two players and an addictive challenge mode. Read More...
Classic Mode begins with a single piece of fruit being launched onto the playfield and quickly ramps up. If you let a piece of fruit fall back off of the playfield you are given a strike. Three strikes and you're out. This mode will also launch bombs onto the screen, which will end the game if sliced.
Should a Pomegranate—a fruit not present in the iOS version—appear, you can frantically slice it more than 60 times to score a huge point bonus and it will negate one strike should you have any. Occasionally a rare fruit, like dragon fruit will appear and slicing it will be worth 50 points. While most fruits are worth a single point, hitting combos of three or more with one blade slice will award bonus points and randomly occurring critical hits are worth ten points.
Arcade Mode is a score attack mode with a 60 second time limit. There are three power up bananas that will appear from all sides of the screen in this mode. Freeze will slow everything down, Frenzy will launch a thick stream of fruits from the sides of the screen and Double Score is self-explanatory.
Bombs in Arcade Mode do not end the game, but detract ten points from your score and will cancel any active power ups. You can really boost your score by stringing combos together in a "Super Combo Blitz" and maximizing the hits of a pomegranate that appears at the end of every round. A final tally also awards bonus points for the number of combos you get, hitting power up bananas and even for hitting a certain number of bombs.
Zen Mode has no strikes, power ups or bombs, only a 90 second time limit. This mode is all about waiting for the perfect time to strike and maximizing your combos.
The Challenge mode of Fruit Ninja Kinect is my favourite way to play. Here you are given challenges in all three main modes based on the scores of those on your friends leaderboard. If you don't have any friends playing the game, it will assign challenges based on score plateaus and does a great job of incrementally making you a better player and working towards the high scores needed to unlock some of the achievements. It also creates a sense of variety by mixing up the modes.
Fruit Ninja Kinect also offers two local two-player varieties under Party Mode. You can play Co-Op Arcade that tallies your collective score or a competitive Battle mode. In Battle, fruits are colour-coded in red and blue. Players must slice their own fruits while avoiding the other player's. Slicing the other player's fruit will detract from your own score.
As you play, you will unlock "Sensei's Shwag" from the Dojo menu such as new effects for your blade swipes, backgrounds and player shadows. Unfortunately these unlockables are merely cosmetic and have no effect on gameplay.
What makes or breaks any Kinect title is its controls and the team at Halfbrick Studios did an excellent job adapting the frantic, touch-based swiping gameplay of the original iOS version to a hands-free motion control system. Slices with both hands (or feet if you're brave) are extremely precise and accurate at a level well above the majority of software for the platform and there is little to no input lag.
A shadow of the player is projected on the background, allowing you to easily tell where your hands are and aim your slices. Should you swipe too frantically, your shadow will turn into a puff of smoke and you won't be able to slice for a few seconds unless you stop.
Unfortunately, a calibration problem sometimes prevents your shadow from returning for 10-15 seconds, which in a one minute game ruins your play session. The game will also recalibrate if you change positions, remove a hat or even when you sit down to take a break. This constant calibration was likely a choice to allow players to drop in and out in a party or family situation, but in practice it can be quite frustrating as a single player.
Fruit Ninja Kinect also tends to act funny when first starting up the game and even moreso when trying to start a two player session. This sort of thing is common among Kinect titles and will generally be accepted by most players, but it can hurt the overall experience.
The menu system in Fruit Ninja Kinect is intuitive and uses the same slicing mechanic as the gameplay, but icons are bunched together in a way that makes it easy to make a wrong selection because the game recognises even the slightest up or down swing of either hand. The Dojo menu is also a mess.
This long list can only be navigated by swiping and it can be difficult to stop on what you want with any sort of accuracy. Toning down the sensitivity in the menus and adding up and down keys to the Dojo menu would make for a huge improvement in the UI experience.
Fruit Ninja Kinect is one of the more accessible titles available on the platform, in that you can play effectively while seated. I wasn't able to play from my couch, but got the game to calibrate properly by setting up a dining room chair a bit closer than I would normally play and was able to reach all corners of the screen.
Your mileage may vary depending on your play area, location of the Kinect sensor and height of your chair, but it is possible.
The game could technically be played with one arm, but achieving high scores is virtually impossible without the use of two. The game also uses a distinct audio cue to tell you when a bomb is launched onto the playfield, which leaves deaf players at a disadvantage. An option for a screen flash could help with this a lot.
On the plus side, those that have use of both arms, but limited manual dexterity like me should be able to play Fruit Ninja Kinect at a high level. I've played with open hands, closed fists and with wrist weights without any detection issues.
Fruit Ninja Kinect benefits from a nice presentation that features clean and colourful graphics. Each fruit makes a distinct squishing or splatter sound when sliced and the remnants behave realistically when they fall.
There is no music outside of the main menu, but the sound effects including sword swings and bomb explosions are well done. The sensei will appear on your post-play results screen and offer facts about the fruit you've been slicing, which gives the game some personality.
While it does have a few issues and will essentially be relegated to party game status once I've unlocked the achievements, I would consider Fruit Ninja Kinect a must-buy for any content-starved Kinect owner. The Challenge mode offers some replay value, the controls are a showcase for what the Kinect sensor can do and it's a great way to get your heart going and work up a sweat in a few minutes.
Game Forward Score: 3/5
Fruit Ninja Kinect (Xbox LIVE Arcade / Kinect) Quick Facts: