There can be no denying that the emergence, and subsequent explosion, of mobile platforms as a serious contender for your gaming money has caused game developers and publishers to rethink their strategies to some extent. Smartphones, and more recently tablets, have put a gaming device in every pocket, putting games in the hands of those who might not usually even consider themselves gamers. Suddenly everyone is playing Angry Birds or Naughty Penguin or whatever other nonsense the kids bang on about these days, and they’re doing so for around a dollar per game. Halfbrick’s Fruit Ninja is one such mobile sensation, having sold in excess of 20 million copies. Now the time has come to find out whether what acts as a perfect way to kill time on your mobile device can survive the transition to a proper console game, with a price tag to match.
The concept couldn’t be simpler. You are the eponymous ninja, and colourful, juicy fruit is your helpless prey. It’s up to you to slice and dice all manner of fruit as it flies across the screen. That's pretty much the whole show. On touchscreen mobile platforms this comes down to you using your fingers to operate your on-screen ninja swords, carving through an assortment of fruit, all the while making sure to avoid the occasional bomb which shows up to kill the mood. And that same mechanic carries through to the Xbox 360 version, but instead of your fingers, it's your hands and arms that become your weapons of choice. Wait for a number of fruit to line up in mid air, all at the apex of their flight trajectory, and let loose with one wide, swift swoosh of your imaginary sword, and watch them all gush open as the fruit juice spews forth... it’s quite wonderful.
The act of vicious, luscious fruit murder is made all the more enjoyable thanks to the very neatly implemented Kinect controls. We all know that not all Kinect games are made equal, with some suffering from terrible lag and motion recognition issues, but thankfully Fruit Ninja is almost flawless in this regard. A clever idea was to overlay your silhouette on the screen, which takes much of the guesswork out of positioning yourself correctly. It takes a little while to get your hand-eye coordination sorted out, but the controls are intuitive and rather accurate. Which is a good thing, because if you want to rack up high scores in this game then you’ll have to do some pretty precise slicing.
For such a simple game premise, Fruit Ninja is also fairly good looking, in a simple yet effective way. Not in the usual sense of HD gaming - don’t try to compare this to the visual fidelity of the generations flagship titles - but it does what it has to do with its own distinctively cheerful style. Other than a number of different backgrounds and colour options for your blade swooshes, it’s really just about the fruit. Which looks good enough to eat - like what fruit would look like if we lived in a cartoon or a Liquifruit advert. Neat touches, like the bonus pomegranates which allow for ‘bullet-time’ multi-slicing for massive score bonuses, are all presented in the same vibrant style.
The look and feel of Fruit Ninja has then made the move from handheld to home console pretty much in tact, with Halfbrick improving on the original versions in a number of areas - it looks better, sounds better and with full hand and arm motion tracking it feels more intuitive too. What is of concern is whether this is the sort of game that people care to play on their consoles. Simple mobile titles like this, by their very nature, are somewhat disposable - you play it on your smartphone because you have time to kill, but you don’t necessarily set time aside to boot it up for a session. By releasing Fruit Ninja on Xbox 360, Halfbrick are now asking gamers to fire up their TVs and game consoles, get the Kinect sensor in position, and actually make a concerted effort to spend some quality time with what is basically going to be a short distraction.
You see, at its core Fruit Ninja Kinect is very much a glorified mini-game. There are a number of variations on the main theme, including a Zen mode which removes those pesky bombs and lets you hunt for high scores without fear, but there really isn’t much juice in this fruit salad once you’ve had your fill of the basic premise. A multiplayer mode adds that much needed party game atmosphere, letting two gamers slash away like gamers possessed, but even with a friend this is a short-lived one-trick pony.
Had there been more game to actually play, perhaps more new modes - which were significantly different to the core game - or a more extensive Party Mode set-up, then this would have been an essential addition to your Kinect game library. The swordplay and motion-sensing technology seem almost made for one another, and it is genuinely good fun while it lasts. It’s cheap, cheerful, and as such is worth its budget price, but don’t expect to be captivated by its charms for very long.
- It’s undeniably good clean fun, at a budget price
- Kinect implementation is lag-free and accurate enough for the game's needs
- Bright and cheerful presentation
- Will probably only hold your attention for short bursts
- Not enough variety to the game modes