Sometimes, you just want a game to distract you for a few minutes. Cleaving hundreds of fresh, juicy fruits is a fun way to kill a bit of time, and this has made Fruit Ninja a popular mobile game. You can slice up some oranges, hack some pineapples, and slash some strawberries on the bus, and as soon as you get where you're going, you can put the game aside, having had a short, complete little experience that you can then immediately forget in order to focus on other things. With Fruit Ninja Kinect, the fruit-slicing action migrates from your mobile device to your television, and although its implementation of the Kinect is very good, this is still, at heart, the same game you can play on your phone for a buck. At 10 dollars, the sweetness of this enjoyable minigame turns a bit sour, and the same play-and-forget quality that serves as a virtue during a morning commute becomes a bit of a liability in the living room. Fruit Ninja is a fun little distraction--nothing less and nothing more.
The game doesn't offer you any instructional information, and it doesn't need to. The gameplay could hardly be simpler. Limes, apples, strawberries, pears, and other tasty fruits fly up from the bottom of the screen, and your goal is to mercilessly slice them all, splattering their delicious juices on the wall. You commit this fruit murder by making fast motions with your hands (and your feet, too, if you want to get fancy). Each time you do so, a visual effect suggesting the slicing of a blade follows your motions, and any fruit that comes into contact with one of these slices meets its demise. Matching up your movements to the onscreen action is easy since your silhouette is always visible against the background, and the fruity carnage that ensues as you wave your arms around does make you feel like the titular citrus-hating, berry-despising shadow warrior.
The best fruit ninjas know better than to attack their prey willy-nilly. By waiting for the right moment to strike and slicing three or more fruits in a single slice, you earn a point-enhancing combo, and chaining these together can lead to massive point bonuses. This element of skill makes the game a bit more involving, and you may get some enjoyment out of trying to assert your superior fruit-killing skills on the leaderboards. But any way you slice it, Fruit Ninja is still essentially a minigame. It's silly, messy fun in occasional short bursts, but it's not going to hold your interest for long.
There are three single-player modes that each change up the action in some way. In Classic mode, you have three lives, and you lose a life each time a fruit escapes from your wrath unscathed. Additionally, bombs are frequently tossed up along with the fruit, and if you slice one of these, the game is over instantly, regardless of how many lives you have remaining. It's crushing when contact with a bomb brings a promising shot at a new high score to a close, but the controls work well enough that when this happens, you have only yourself to blame. This danger means that you can't just wave your arms wildly; like a true master of the shadow arts, you must be precise.
In Arcade mode, you have 60 seconds to score as many points as possible. There's no penalty for not slicing a fruit before it falls off the screen, and slicing a bomb costs 10 points, rather than bringing the game to an end. Bonus bananas sometimes appear, and slicing these brings certain benefits, like triggering a fruit frenzy or doubling your points for a time. Zen mode is the most laid back of the bunch. This mode lasts 90 seconds, and there are no lives, no bombs, and no bananas.
There are also a pair of two-player modes in which players stand side by side and slice fruit simultaneously. In Team Arcade mode, you work together to maximize your shared score. In Battle mode, you compete to see who can earn the most points before time runs out. It's fun to obliterate oranges with a friend for a little while, but in Battle mode, the game often seems to give one player the upper hand by providing him or her with more fruit to slice.
Fruit Ninja Kinect tries to sweeten the pot by giving you a number of blades, backgrounds, and shadow effects to unlock. Some of these you naturally unlock just by spending enough time with the game, while others pose unique challenges, like slicing every strawberry and nothing else in a game of Arcade mode. The option to customize the look of the game a bit is a welcome one, but it doesn't hide the fact that this is a simple minigame being sold at the price of a full downloadable game. Like the aforementioned strawberry, Fruit Ninja Kinect is sweet, but it doesn't last long, and you'll soon want something a lot more substantial.