Review: Fruit Ninja Kinect

Review: Fruit Ninja Kinect
Game Name: Fruit Ninja Kinect
Platforms: XBLA
Publisher(s): Microsoft
Genre(s): Casual, Kinect
Release Date: August 10th, 2011
ESRB Rating: E

Thanks for our friends at Microsoft, I’ve been playing some Fruit Ninja Kinect over the last few days.  The Kinect-requiring XBLA exclusive version of the incredibly popular iPhone app lands today, dropping with a price tag of $10 (800 MS Points) for Fruit Ninja fanatics everywhere.  Hit the jump to find out whether or not Fruit Ninja Kinect is simply a cheap cash in on a popular mobile game, or a legitimately amusing Kinect experience!

The quick answer: it is both.

The thing about Fruit Ninja Kinect is that it feels like a simple title designed to cash in on the popularity of its mobile cousin.  However, I can’t deny that the game really is fun, perhaps even slightly therapeutic, as you use your hands to slice helpless fruit apart.  Much like the iPhone title, gameplay consists of cutting fruit apart as it is thrown across your screen, a successful hit resulting in a splatter of innards that go tumbling down to oblivion.  Containing several different game modes, the experience is augmented by adding timers, special power-up fruit, and obstacles to avoid cutting (such as dangerous, game-ending bombs).

This game is fun.  Simple, casual mobile games have really become a potent market as of late, merely because they’re typically inexpensive to develop, yet have huge potential for massive returns if the marketplace likes them.  These games have leeched onto the massive, untapped casual market because their mechanics focus on two things: simplicity and fun.  Fruit Ninja Kinect follows this mold, trimming out the complex action for simple, arm-swinging fun.  It definitely makes the game very casual, but it is also easy to play and non-threatening for the inexperienced gamer.

Speaking of arm swinging, you’ll be doing it a lot, to the point where you’ll start to get self-conscious about how tired you’re becoming.  After a long day at work (working on a film set, where we had been lifting equipment cases throughout a 12 hour day), I was almost unable to play more than thirty or forty minutes.  If you can get hyperactive kids to play it, they’ll at least be getting some exercise, but be prepared for an upper body gameplay experience that can leave you tired.

Adding some depth.  One thing I really admired about FNK were the additional gameplay modes.  The centerpiece here seems to be the Classic Mode, in which you must cut fruit while avoiding bombs.  In addition, there are Zen modes, Arcade modes, and even a party themed mode which pits drunken suburbanites in fruit chopping competitive multiplayer.

Challenges!  One of the smartest decisions is the inclusion of a set of challenges and unlockables.  If you’re unsure what mode to play, the game randomly generates a challenge for you to attempt on the main menu.  Simply slicing the challenge starts it, taking you to one of the game modes with a specific objective, such as “Slice 200 fruit in Zen mode”.  These challenges are always changing, which is a nice way to let the game guide you through variety.  By the end, I was almost just letting the game pick challenges for me, as I found it to be a much more rewarding experience.

So, what are the problems?

About as deep as a kiddie pool.  Yes, I know I complemented the game on expanding its scope by adding additional gameplay modes.  Unfortunately, the title still suffers from the trappings of a mobile game, where the experience isn’t constantly evolving.  By the end of a few hours, you’ll probably only dust this off (digitally dust it off) when friends or family are looking for a fun, quick game.

800 Points.  This one rubs me the wrong way.  Fruit Ninja for the iPhone and iPad are both under $5.  However, the XBLA version doubles the price (and then some) of the iPad title up to $10.  That seems a bit much, considering the game won’t hold your attention very long.  Dump this on top of the $150 Kinect sensor, and it isn’t the friendliest price.

Mobile games on the big screen.  Mobile games work due to their pick-up-and-play nature.  They’re meant to be bite sized experiences that you can take or leave, meant to kill time on the bus or in the dentist’s waiting room.  Putting such a title on a home based console draws attention to how casual these games really are, which feels at odds with the original “impulsively play me!” nature of the source.

Fruit Ninja Kinect is a fun time waster, but it is hard to recommend as a full, must-play experience.  Pick it up if you’ve got a Kinect collecting dust, a fondness for the mobile game, and 800 points to kill.  Otherwise, there are plenty of other titles on XBLA that could be worth those points.