When Microsoft first showed Project Natal (later rebranded as the Kinect) at the 2009 Electronic Entertainment, the device seemed revolutionary. Facilitating complex conversations with virtual beings, as well as allowing real-world items to be scanned into digital realms, the peripheral was promoted as the next great innovation in input technology. In execution, the actual gadget has proved unable to reach this lofty potential. From an inability to detect even a simple push-up in UFC Personal Trainer or succumbing to debilitating lag in Wipeout: In the Zone, Kinect has failed to deliver on many of its press conference promises.
As such, the device works best when its aspirations are constrained. As Child of Eden has shown, the peripheral is adept at reading the movement of a player’s hands. Smartly, developer Halfbrink seems to be acutely aware of these limitations. While the studio’s conversion of its popular iPhone/Android title, Fruit Ninja permits the occasional kick to slice a wayward watermelon, most players will be using their upper limbs as culinary cutting instruments. Smartly, Fruit Ninja Kinect upholds the app’s simple charm, while maintaining much of its intuitive playability.
Wisely forgoing any attempt at narrative explanation, each of the title’s modes toss a cornucopia of seeded edibles skyward. All of these fruits- watermelons, oranges, kiwis, apples, strawberries, pears, lemons, limes (and even the anomalous coconut) follow an arcing trajectory, realistically slowing at their apex before surrendering to the pull of gravity. Players are tasked with slicing each piece of fruit in half; missing more than three pieces will immediately end the games. Alternatively, slicing one of the game’s mislaid bombs sends participants to the ‘game over’ screen. Beyond the sporadic pomegranate which challenges players to hack away wildly, or a striped banana which has the ability to slow time when cut, the title wisely keeps things simple. Even non-gaming onlookers were able to quickly ascertain the game’s mechanics, cultivating an eagerness to try their hands as a sharp-limbed sous-chef.
Whereas the phone-based app allowed gamers to instinctively swipe at flying fruits, Fruit Ninja Kinect creates a near-negligible ‘dis-Kinect’ as a player’s on-screen silhouette initiates the slicing. Rapid, karate-chop-like movements create visible flashes- which when in the proximity of a fruit, dices the food in half while delivering a satisfying splatter of puree of the backdrop. Although there is the intermittent swing which doesn’t seem to connect with the flying foodstuffs, generally the title is remarkably responsive. Strangely, the game’s menu system is one of the more problematic elements; several times I launched another round instead of backtracking toward the mode selection screen.
Beyond a two player simultaneous option, bomb-free Zen Mode, and a time-based variant, Fruit Ninja Kinect offers a pleasing selection of unlockables to keep players carving. From additional backgrounds, blade types, and shadow effects, the game’s perks help offset any fruit-splintering fatigue. Yet, after several days of play I wished Halfbrick would have borrowed an idea from their imitator’s playbook by offering the ability to slice fruit into quadrants for bonus points. As it stands, trying to scythe through simultaneous fruits for a bonus combo offers a gratifying challenge.
For software-starved Kinect owners, Fruit Ninja Kinect is as satisfying as a smoothie on a balmy summer afternoon. Unlike most full-priced fare which is designed specifically for the peripheral, the title’s ten-dollar price and lack of any extended time commitment make it an easy recommendation for Kinect owners seeking a tasty, satisfying diversion. Whether played in a short solo session, or part of a extended multiplayer competition, Fruit Ninja Kinect has the ability to get people moving, honoring at least one of Kinect’s early aspirations.