Any way you slice it, Fruit Ninja is one of the most popular mobile games of all time. It’s built around such an unassuming foundation that it lends itself perfectly to those lulls in life when you don’t really want to think about anything. Hell, as fast as the fruit flies, there isn’t time for thinking, just reacting. It’s certainly easy to understand and appreciate the appeal.
Shortly following the advent of the Kinect, Halfbrick released a version of Fruit Ninja that made use of the Xbox 360’s motion control peripheral. While it was generally well-received, it was still a curious decision that seemingly flew in the face of everything the title stood for. After all, this was a game that lent itself to short bursts during downtime; now that you have to lug a coffee table across the living room to get started, well, it’s just a different experience.
Unsurprisingly, Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 hasn’t changed much from its 2011 Xbox 360 adaptation. Sure, there are new bells and whistles, and it’s definitely an improvement. But, the core game is still the same, and again, just like nearly four years ago, it’s the limitations of the hardware that hold everything back.
Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 (Xbox One)
Developer: Hibernum Créations
Publisher: Halfbrick Studios
Released: March 18, 2015
For the few who don’t know, Fruit Ninja relies on the suspension of disbelief that you are a ninja (apologies to the actual ninjas in the audience), and that fruit is your mortal enemy. As fruit is tossed up on the screen, slashing, slicing, dicing, chopping, and cleaving motions dispel the pesky produce. Efficiency is key, and eliminating melons, berries, and citrus in numbers of three or higher is more rewarding in every sense of the word.
Again, it’s a simple premise. Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 warmly welcomes back arcade, classic, and zen modes, all of which remain (almost) untouched in their varying degrees of danger and urgency. However, there’s also an attempt to add depth with four new modes, a bolstered multiplayer system, and campaign objectives. They’re all fine improvements — small tweaks on a formula that really can’t be tweaked all that much.
Festival is where seasoned Fruit Ninja players will find the most jarring changes. These four games each place their own significant caveat on gameplay. Two of them require avoiding incoming shurikens and staying out of a moving spotlight while still slicing fruit. Another throws seeds into the mix which, when not disposed of, turn into bamboo that needs chopping down. And, in maybe the biggest twist yet, one game trades in faux katanas for barroom darts.
All that mostly ends up serving as a distraction — a palate cleanser when the three mainstay modes temporarily overstay their welcome. They’ll also have a share of campaign objectives that are unique to them, as Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 has a level progression system that sees the player from whatever unremarkable title rank one holds, through Fruit Ninja at rank 30. In the past, the only real reason to keep at Fruit Ninja was for leaderboard dominance. While that urge is still present, the stripped-down campaign does a lot to encourage continued play, even if there’s nothing notably unique about it.
Honestly, Fruit Ninja Kinect 2‘s most alluring prospect is as a party game. Fortunately, the multiplayer has evolved significantly since the past iteration. Now, four-person play is supported (although only two at a time, with swift trade-offs), and there are mini-games galore to ensure that everything’s more varied than “chop more fruit than your friends.”
Predictably, Fruit Ninja Kinect 2‘s biggest weakness comes from the implementation of the Xbox One’s Kinect. It’s not a perfect motion peripheral, and that can become all too evident when laser-like accuracy is necessary. But, to their credit, the developers did the best they could minimizing the severity of the issue.
One of Fruit Ninja Kinect‘s greatest strengths (and it’s true of this game, too) is that it maps the player’s shadow to the background. It seems somewhat insignificant, but this gives the player an omnipresent frame of reference, something that other Kinect titles couldn’t offer. Most importantly, it mitigates the imprecision of the Kinect by projecting a constant and reliable method to altering body movements that’d achieve desirable results. And, brilliantly enough, this all exists in the player’s subconscious.
Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 is subject to the same technical downfalls in theory, but it handles them a bit better in execution. That’s to be expected; it’s using improved hardware, after all. There aren’t many instances of Kinect just flat-out refusing to read your movements. The issues are more nuanced than that. Sometimes it’ll put players on the wrong side in multiplayer and refuse to fix the problem. Other times, it won’t accept the bowing command to pause the game. Most of these are niggling complications that can be worked around once you know how Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 consistently functions. Still, it’s frustrating until that point’s reached.
Ultimately, Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 is a game that improves upon its predecessor in almost every conceivable way. Anything less would be unacceptable given that this feels somewhat more like a remaster of sorts than a true sequel. There aren’t any major alterations, as the Fruit Ninja concept can’t be shaken up too dramatically. But hey, it turns out that frantically slicing fruit still makes for a nice little distraction, regardless of whether it’s on a tablet, a phone, or a television.