Fruit Ninja Kinect is the first XBLA title that has been allowed to ‘Jump In’ with Microsoft’s motion sensing technology. After a year or so of Kinect titles which have regularly seemed to have an air of lacklustre mediocrity about them, this simple downloadable game might just be Kinect’s killer app.
Firstly, it’s important to be clear about what this game is. Fruit Ninja was a runaway hit on iOS and then other smartphone platforms. It mixed an entertaining idea – that of slicing up fruit – with a simple mechanic – swiping. It’s a basic proposition but it was tuned so tightly and wrapped in such an attractive, colourful graphical package that it caught on and became extremely popular. At least for the casual, albeit huge, smartphone market.[videoyoutube]Kinect has struggled with its image somewhat since the first representation it was given at E3 with choreographed gameplay mockups and that, frankly, ridiculous Milo demonstration. Subsequent mediocrity in much of the software line up has perpetuated a feeling of disinterest among, not only those that have always scoffed at anything more family or casually oriented but those who were early adopters. And let’s not forget that Kinect is officially the fastest selling consumer electronic device in the world – there were a lot of early adopters.
In many ways, Fruit Ninja Kinect is the answer to those early issues. It’s unapologetically simple in its premise. Fruit Ninja Kinect seems to be saying “Oh, yes, I’m a casual party game. But you’ll love me.”
For those unfamiliar with the game, here’s the deal: Fruit is seemingly tossed up onto the screen by an unseen force. Both your hands (and feet, if you really are a ninja) are deadly, fruit-slicing weapons. Swing, swoosh and chop the fruit as it momentarily hangs in the air to score points. Chopping multiple fruits with a single swipe increases your combo score and sets you along the path to a much higher score. Swiping a bomb, in game modes where they feature ends the game.
And that’s it. Simple, isn’t it?
It’s a simplicity which belies the compelling nature of the game. That simple urge for “just one more go” is as old as gaming itself and Fruit Ninja Kinect has that in spades.
There are numerous modes that introduce minor gameplay changes like a lives limit that recharges as you score in Classic Mode, power ups for Arcade Mode and the brand new two-player mode but the challenge mode and the leader boards are perhaps the most interesting aspect.[drop]Every time you play, there is a challenge mode which encourages you to perform specific tasks in competition with other players or, often, just to better your own proficiency with the game. It’s perhaps an analogy that’s all too easy to rush to but the comparisons between this and a kind of very simplified Need for Speed Autolog are valid in that both urge you to play the game in a more specific, focussed way. It encourages more competitive play and that is what keeps many coming back. It’s a fantastic idea, as unoriginal as it now may be, and it’s brilliantly implemented here.
Further to the challenge mode and the familiar leader boards, there’s a local two-player mode too. Setting aside the risk of bruised forearms and eye-pokings that come with flailing around whilst standing next to someone else, this is great fun and a lovely addition for a game which is sure to be popular at slightly tipsy after-pub sessions and family parties.
Of course, it’s not perfect. The seemingly random critical hits which award a large points bonus would be better if they were somehow related to the player’s ability. Fruit Ninja is also largely unsuited to longer playing sessions. In part, this is due to the fact that any longer than a couple of hours and your arms will be useless for at least 24 hours but it’s also due to the simplicity that makes the game so enjoyable. It’s fun to do this one focussed thing in short bursts but for most people, that repetition will dissuade them from longer sessions.
Fruit Ninja Kinect is the most responsive, compelling Kinect title I’ve yet experienced and although it’s such a basic concept, it is presented beautifully and with several delightful hooks that will keep you returning to better the achievements made by your friends.
I’m sure there will be those who are keen to point out that this game is not doing anything that wasn’t preempted by the PlayStation 2’s EyeToy or even emulated by certain Move mini games. And they’re right, to a point. But Fruit Ninja Kinect displays a level of precision, accuracy and gorgeous presentation that is incomparable to EyeToy and it has a degree of focussed enjoyment that is unmatched with Move, although a Move compatible port at some point in the future would be most welcome.
- Looks fantastic.
- Very responsive, great motion tracking.
- Gameplay is very focussed around an enjoyable system.
- Challenge mode makes it competitive and compelling.
- Will get repetitive over long periods of play.
- Quite random point scoring with critical hits.
It’s a great core mechanic, brilliantly implemented and wonderfully presented. It fits the system and the distribution model perfectly and will hopefully see a great deal of interest from a wide range of players.