There are very few people unaware of the game Fruit Ninja. When it first hit the mobile scene in 2010, Fruit Ninja quickly rose to fame as one of the most played, highest rated mobile games available. With that kind of success, it was no surprise that developer Halfbrick Studios wanted to branch out and bring their game to other platforms, including Xbox.
The first Xbox version of Fruit Ninja Kinect, which released on Xbox 360 in 2011, found success thanks to its use of the Kinect to incorporate player movement into the game. That success has led to a sequel, Fruit Ninja Kinect 2.
Those who played the original Fruit Ninja Kinect on the 360 will feel right at home with Fruit Ninja Kinect 2. The new game follows the same format as its predecessor, with only a few minor additions. That shouldn't come as a shock to anyone, as the developer has little reason to change a working formula. Unfortunately, the lack of major changes leads us to see the game more as a port to the current-gen Xbox system, rather than a proper sequel.
That being said, the game is still an enjoyable break from the more serious titles currently available. It does well to fill the void of party games on the Xbox One, of which there are only a few. And with the system growing in popularity thanks to its now permanent reduction in price, party games like Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 are sure to capture a healthy audience.
For those new to playing Fruit Ninja using the Kinect, we're happy to report there is a very small learning curve needed for the game. That goes a long way to make Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 available for anyone to play, regardless of age or activity level. It's perfect as a party or family-oriented game.
As with the first Fruit Ninja Kinect, players chop, slash and hack their way through seemingly endless rounds of flying fruit. The game makes it easy for players to see where they're chopping by showing a shadow on the screen that mimics the player's movements. Using the shadow as a guide, players move their arms (sometime flailing them) around, slicing at the fruit as it flies across the screen. Unfortunately, the Kinect isn't always the most accurate, with the occasional slight delay in following a player's movement, or misreading where a player has sliced their hands. However, this seems to be more a hardware issue rather than a fault of the game, though it can still cause a little frustration when playing, especially during multiplayer.
Each round, players work their way towards a new high score, trying to knock friends and strangers from the leaderboards. In addition to seeking high scores, the game also offers challenges, which when completed, reward players with special points that can be used to unlock fun extras in the game. These extras include new backgrounds, sword slash colors and shadow designs. While these unlocks are fun, they are all cosmetic and have no effect on the gameplay. This represents a huge missed opportunity for Halfbrick and Hibernum Creations (the developer who brought Fruit Ninja to Xbox). Playing to unlock a new background is far less motivating than if players were able to unlock new game modes and challenges. Hopefully, that's something we'll see in future Fruit Ninja games.
The game modes available in Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 are diverse enough that players can have varying experiences, despite the simplicity of the mechanics. Some of the basic game modes, like Classic, pit players against not only fruit, but also flying bombs, which if slashed, will explode and immediately end a player's game. Those bombs make appearances in other game modes as well, such as Arcade, though rather than ending the game when slashed, these bombs simply steal away a few points from the player's score. There's also a game mode that doesn't include bombs at all, called Zen Mode, where player can chop in a frenzy, slicing through as many pieces of fruit as they can before the time runs out. While these game modes all follow the same idea, their diversity makes for some different challenges that help mix things up enough to keep playing, at least for a little while.
When it comes to challenges, the game offers a handful of specific challenges that players can complete for extra rewards. These challenges include slicing certain types of fruit during a game, chopping high numbers of fruit before hitting bombs, and nabbing multiple streaks in a row. As players finish these challenges, they're rewarded with extra points, as well as new levels, or ninja belts, that show off a player's status in the game. While these challenges and rewards help break up the regular score-building aspect, they fail to keep player attention for an extended amount of time.
Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 does bring some new content to the table in the form of its Festival games. In Festival, players are challenged by NPC characters to complete specific challenges while slicing through the fruit. These challenges include dodging throwing stars, avoiding a spotlight, and pinning fruit to targets with darts. While Festival does provide some fun extra content, replayability is low since players face the same challenge over and over, with minimal changes between games.
Where Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 truly shines is in its multiplayer. When players challenge each other and pump up the competition, it's easy to play the game for a couple hours without losing interest. The game's simplicity makes it all the more enjoyable to beat out friends for high scores. It also makes the game a winner for families with young children, as the high activity level and bright colors are great at holding kids' attention.
Unfortunately, when friends leave and kids find a new distraction, Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 will sit on the Xbox One's hard drive, taking up space until the next family gathering. There is little reason to return to the game for days or weeks at a time, with few rewards available for continued play. While it is a fun game for short bursts of time, Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 lacks the depth needed to be a top choice game for most gamers, and fails to build upon its predecessor. That being said, for those gamers looking for a fun distraction that's sure to be a hit at parties, Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 is still a good choice.
Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 is available now for Xbox One for $14.99 USD. Game Rant was provided a download code for this review.