Fruit Ninja Kinect
How long has Kinect been out? Forever, that's how long, and in all that time we've only had about four or five half-decent games for Microsoft's motion control add-on. The emphasis there is on 'half-decent', and that's not to cast aspersions on those games but on how disappointing-to-terrible the rest of the library has been thus far. With gaming's sad history with peripherals I'm not surprised.
Except E3 has come and gone and now Microsoft has thrown everything behind Kinect, bandying around its inclusion within a number of core titles like Mass Effect, Ghost Recon, and Madden. All well and good, but many a humble plebian like myself have bemoaned the lack of games shown that were designed to fit Kinect, converse to those that Kinect was seemingly bent to fit. So maybe it's with humble pie that I find myself praising a Kinect game that was adapted from an iOS precursor.
The thing is that Fruit Ninja Kinect somehow feels like it was born for Kinect, and even though it's not the most spectacular game it only serves to convince me further of my position, no matter how paradoxical and contradictory it sounds. Kinect has not been bent to fit it; it just fits Kinect. I'll quickly admit that calling the game unspectacular demeans it unfairly; it is certainly a lot of fun.
As the name suggests, the concept is simple. Fruit flies across the screen, and using your arms you slash through your five-a-day before they hit the ground. Extra points are doled out for multiple hits with one slash, while bombs are to be avoided at all costs. In the arcade mode there are occasional banana power-ups, like a Frenzy banana that when slashed fills the screen with vitamin-y goodness, and an Ice Banana that slows the fruit's movement mid-air, making it easier to hit those multiples.
A party game must primarily be simple and intuitive, and without doubt Fruit Ninja Kinect is both of those. Even in its little nuances, like putting together big multiples by combining different power-ups in the arcade mode, are not difficult concepts to grasp. It cannot be understated how much it helps that the game's Kinect integration feels like a match made in heaven. While swipes can at times be a little imprecise it doesn't really matter, the fruit are big enough on screen and the swipes thick enough that the game is rewarding in spite of any clumsiness. The visualization of your 'shadow' across the background makes it easy to get a general idea of where your swipes will hit on-screen.
It's also not too precious about hitting a bomb; you really need to be hitting it dead-on to get penalized. In the more stamina-based main mode that's important, but it's the frenetic quick-fire Arcade and Zen modes that provide the most fun. Also, both two-player co-operative and competitive play are decent, although if your Kinect space is quite narrow like mine is then you might find yourself suffering a swiped arm or three.
Fruit Ninja Kinect falls short of greatness, however, because of a few factors. For one, for its price it's a little too limited in terms of different modes. Two of the modes' games are over within 60-90 seconds, and this means the novelty can wear thin rather quickly.
It also doesn't help that the Arcade mode is more about luck than skill. Power-ups are doled out randomly, and when the three different power-ups come together it's very easy to quickly rack up the points. This, however, is quite a rare occurrence. If it was more common the mode might feel more worthwhile with repeated plays.
Meanwhile the main mode, in which the aim is to last as long as possible by not hitting any bombs and making sure to nor miss any fruit, can feel a little slow when there's a big high score to beat. The counter to this stagnancy is the Challenge Mode, in which the game sets goals for you based on your current scores and your friends' across the various modes.
Despite the flaws in the game design, Fruit Ninja Kinect wins through because of how the main thrust or indeed swipe or slash of its play integrates with Microsoft's motion controls. Could this be the start of more games making the transition from iOS to Kinect? As much as the idea of reading out a dialogue command in Mass Effect 3 really excites me, I do hope so for Kinect's sake.
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