The concept of Fruit Ninja Kinect is so simplistic it's almost hard to write about. Fruit gets launched up from the bottom of the screen. You wave your arms around like some kind of produce-hating Edward Scissorhands. The fruit explodes. Sure, there are permutations to the classic fruit chopping gameplay, but in general they all boil down to slicing as many of the targets as you can in the shortest time possible. But sometimes simple is better, and this XBLA release manages to pound that point home better than most, especially in multiplayer.
What little depth the game boasts comes from a multiplier system that will award you bonus points for chopping three or more pieces of fruit in one swipe. While it may be tempting to spastically wave about at first, it soon becomes clear that patience is often key. If you wait for the exact right moment, you'll be able to rack up huge points in one swipe. But, other than in the comparatively peaceful Zen mode, you'll have to watch out for bombs, which subtract points if slashed. Special bananas will also fly across the screen at random points which, if slashed, will grant you bonuses such as a temporary time freeze or a frenzy of fruits soaring in from the sides of the screen.
There are a multitude of modes which attempt to spice things up. Other than the aforementioned Zen mode, there's Classic, which ends when you whiff three pieces of fruit, and there's Arcade, which gives you 60 seconds to chop to your heart's content. There are also a few multiplayer modes, and these are where the game really shines. As is true of so many other Kinect games, making a fool of yourself is at its best when there are others present to watch. This time around you can either compete to see which player can slash more fruits or cooperate to get a high score within a set time limit. The game is easily at its best in these chaotic moments. It's goofy fun, and when one or more of the special bananas are active with multiple players, things get really chaotic in the best of ways.
Unfortunately not everything is perfect in Fruit Ninja Kinect, and while most of the frustrations are the fault of the Kinect itself and not the game, they still bear mentioning. The biggest problem is the delay between player's actions and the Kinect's reactions. While developer Halfbrick generally did a good job of reducing the delay that has plagued so many Kinect titles, they haven't totally eliminated it, and in a game as fast as this that can be damning. It was actually pretty frustrating at first, as it felt like the game wasn't responding properly. Turns out the delay can be compensated for with a bit of practice, but it's still an annoyance. The Kinect can also have issues recognizing your limbs as they get out towards the edges of the screen, making certain fruits near un-chop-able and certain menu items particularly frustrating to select. Your mileage may vary, of course, given the finicky nature of playing games with a camera, but these issues seemed a bit more prominent in Fruit Ninja Kinect than in other recent titles. The fact that that you don't have to hold your hand over each menu option like you do in most Kinect titles probably contributes to that problem. It can be easy to accidentally start a mode with a minute body movement and not even realize it.
Those are ultimately trivial problems in what is otherwise a shockingly satisfying download. Once you learn to compensate for the delay you'll find there's an appealing crunch to each slice, giving the game a visceral feel that many motion-based games lack. On your own, the satisfaction of chopping up a half dozen fruits in one swipe will be enough to warrant devoting some solid time to perfecting the game's multiple modes. With friends, the game takes on new life and becomes quite a riot. You may scoff at the idea of playing an iOS game on your Xbox 360, but look again before you judge Fruit Ninja so quickly. There's a certain primal appeal to letting loose and filleting fruits with some friends, and this appeal carries the game a long way.