Microsoft announced this week that popular Aussie-developed mobile phone and tablet game Fruit Ninja will be making the transition from fingers to arms, launching later this year on the Kinect. As a refresher for those who haven't been keeping up, Fruit Ninja puts you in the role of a produce assassin, drawing lines on touch screens to bifurcate apples, oranges, pineapples, and other fruit. Bonus bananas fly across the screen at random intervals, slowing down time and causing a fruit frenzy to spit extra fruit from the edges of the screen and onto the playfield at a higher rate than normal, temporarily increasing your score multiplier. The game's simple rules and controls have made it popular with non-gamers, and it stokes the competitive fires of core gamers looking to best their stats with one more turn.
It's a no-brainer then to bring the franchise to the Kinect, where instead of drawing your path of juicy destruction with a finger or three, all you need to do is wave your arms in front of the Kinect camera's sensor to register fruit genocide. All the modes you've come to know are here. Classic mode lets you chop fruit and avoid making contact with purple bombs for as long as possible, and Zen mode, the simplest form of the game, strips out things to avoid cutting, instead focusing on getting right down to business racing the 90-second timer as you try to boost your score as high as possible. Arcade mode is one minute of bomb flinging and fruit cutting, but it also receives a new type of fruit with pomegranate thrown into the mix. Provided you land an initial blow when it appears onscreen, swinging furiously continues to make cuts. It works a bit like the big finish free-play section at the end of some Rock Band songs. We managed to land more than 30 hits before the timer ran out, all with a series of flailing karate chops.
Multiplayer matches can be played either cooperatively or competitively, and the Kinect version of the game will support two players swinging onscreen at once to either reach a common goal of slicing everything that appears or to cut only the blue or red outlined fruit that corresponds to your team. Like in all Kinect games, once the action gets heated, you're going to want to ensure you have plenty of space. We hit our partner once or twice during our demo, so you'll want to leave adequate room for you and your buddy to thrash. Though we were initially concerned that we wouldn't know where we were cutting, a shadow of our form superimposed over the background made it a snap to find our bearings. Once the fruit started flying, the hardest part was remembering that we could use both hands simultaneously.
While the iPhone and Android versions have built a loyal fan base with regular, free updates, Developer Halfbrick has confirmed that the Xbox version--which will be an Xbox Live Arcade game rather than a full retail release--will offer a mix of free and paid DLC. Fruit Ninja Kinect will be making its debut as part of Microsoft's Summer of Arcade promotion and will cost 800 Microsoft points when it goes on sale. Stay tuned for more details.