A Cut Above: ‘Fruit Ninja Kinect’ Review

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Fruit Ninja Kinect clocked in at 140.11 MB when I downloaded it a few days ago. In terms of file sizes for downloadable games, that’s practically in the featherweight division. It’s barely the size of a DLC pack for many games, but the fun to be had in playing the HD version of the hit iPhone game is very disproportionate to its aggregate bytes.

At first, you might think that FNK simply exists to quickly cash in on all those Kinects Microsoft’s managed to get Xbox 360 owners to buy. After all, it’s essentially the same game as in the original mobile version that became wildly successful. The premise is numbingly simple: you play as a shadow warrior in training, honing your sword skills by slicing up all sorts of fruit that bounces on-screen in front of you.

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There are various modes that change up the play experience. In Classic Mode, you have three lives, which get taken if you miss a piece of fruit. Arcade Mode tasks you with earning as high a score as possible in 60 seconds. And there are no bombs in Zen Mode—just a 90-second time limit and an endless cascade of nature’s candy. You’ll encounter some magic bananas that freeze time, double your score or unleash a frenzy of fruit to boost your score. All of those modes come to the Xbox 360 intact and looking excellent in newly redone graphics.

In the iPhone version, your fingertip is the blade. With Kinect, your whole hands become razor-sharp. Aussie dev collective Halfbrick does laudable work on this port of Fruit Ninja, which is notable for how responsive and accurate it is. I had almost no lag and a very low incidence of missed movements. The same gameplay mechanics are a lot more satisfying to execute with your whole body than one little fingertip. It may be easier to score well with FN on a portable’s smaller screen, but you actually feel more like a ninja with the Kinect version. (Not that I know what that feels like.)

Almost all of what makes Fruit Ninja so fun in its mobile incarnation gets preserved on the Xbox 360. Fruit Ninja is Halfbrick’s most successful title and it’s immediately apparent why. They’ve created a title with an ease of play that draws you unsuspectingly in, and then built in enough of a strategy component that you need to improve your skills. You’ll learn pretty quickly–after a few bomb blasts, anyway–that you can’t just slash wildly and have any kind of success. The addition of multiplayer makes things fun for a pair of players, including a mode where two players play at the same time but each must only chop fruits with a designated red or blue glow.

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True, FNK really only does one thing but, in this case, a singular mechanic executed exceedingly well makes up for the lack of depth. The latest in Microsoft’s 2011 Summer of Arcade downloadables presents the kind of easy arcade fun that will draw in casual players but without the condescending lack of challenge found in so many other gesture control games. Add Fruit Ninja Kinect to the list of games that will finally make owning Microsoft’s motion control camera worthwhile.

Techland Score: 8.5 out of 10.

Evan Narcisse is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @EvNarc or on Facebook at Facebook/Evan.Narcisse. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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