When I met with developer, Halfbrick, at E3, I found myself faced with two new versions of Fruit Ninja, one for Facebook, and one for Kinect. I don’t have a Facebook account or a Kinect. I didn’t know what I was in for, but I knew it would be new to me.
I started with Fruit Ninja Frenzy, the "freemium" (free with paid DLC, but more on that later) Facebook title. Having not played Fruit Ninja before, I assumed that the mouse would be a decent way to get myself acquainted with the game’s fundamentals.
However, there aren’t many fundamentals to get acquainted with. Fruit flies through the air onscreen, and you click the mouse and drag it to clash the fruit in half. More points are awarded for slicing multiple pieces of fruit in a single slash. Conversely, you would lose seconds from your timer for slashing the bombs that would fly onscreen.
On occasion, special bananas would fly onscreen. Cutting them would output more fruit (Frenzy Banana) or slow the fruit down (Freeze Banana) for a brief time, making it easier to line up multiple fruits for bonuses. Another banana acted as a score multiplier, doubling the points that the player received. Multiple bananas could be active at once, allowing the player to net points more quickly.
At the end of my minute or so of playing, my score was compared against others on the friends list of Halfbrick producer, Duncan Jones. Seeing my score was somewhat soul-crushing, as I thought I’d done relatively well for a first-timer, but apparently that was far from the case. Fortunately, I was assured that the scores on that leaderboard all belonged to Halfbrick employees, helping me regain a little bit of my lost pride.
After I had my chance to play, Mr. Jones demonstrated the "Smoothies," add-on content paid for with micro-transactions. These allowed him to start with additional time, and more, slower-moving fruit, in addition to extra visual effects like different sword trails and backgrounds. Naturally, his score was significantly higher than mine. After that impressive display, I had a chance to try out Fruit Ninja Kinect.
Fruit Ninja Kinect is largely the same game as Fruit Ninja Frenzy. Fruit flies onscreen, and it’s the player’s job to slice it to bits. Naturally, being a Kinect game, the player uses their body to slash things instead of a mouse. While I assumed that just implied arms, any fast-moving, arcing body part seemed to work. My elbows proved to be quite dangerous, and I was told that kicks worked just as well.
Another plus was being able to slice in two places at once. At the very end of the stage, a pomegranate flew onscreen and I was informed to go crazy on it. I obliged, waving my arms around in only the way that a 6’4" nerd could, and slashing it 31 times in a matter of seconds, which netted me a ton of bonus points.
Fruit Ninja Kinect also has multiplayer, which, contrary to what you might assume, involved a lot less flailing and accidentally hitting your partner. The game almost had the dynamic of a three-person game of catch, with the Halfbrick rep and I alternately calling out "I got it!" when a fruit was going to land between the two of us.
Fruit Ninja Kinect is an XBLA title and will be out during the "Summer of Arcade 2011" event, while Fruit Ninja Frenzy will be released sometime in 2011 on Facebook.