Insert Credit endeavors to suss out where you should be allotting your video game allowance, sifting out a single title from many and crowning it as The One Game You Need to Get This Week. Don’t consider these reviews, gentle reader. Rather, think of Insert Credit as a mix of hands-on time, informed opinion and intuition.
For the week of August 9, 2011, you should insert credit into: “Fruit Ninja Kinect.”
One of the things that old-school gamers lament about the end of the arcade era is the way that the physical space around video games changed. When coin-op stand-ups went extinct, so too did the standing around and milling about in the name of interactive entertainment. You could read the pleasure or concentration in a fellow player’s face in a way that couch-centric gaming doesn’t let you do. Watching how a player interacts with a gameplay experience can be a wondrous thing, if things are designed right.
“Fruit Ninja Kinect” brings that physicality back in a different form as the hit iOS game gets embiggened for a port onto the Xbox 360. Instead of gestures interpolated through a touchscreen, your movements get read by the Kinect. As I demonstrated during my preview, the responsiveness of “FNK” is great and avoids many of the frustrations of other Kinect games. The shadowy on-screen silhouette always lets you know where you are, relative to the action, so you can adjust your body position accordingly.
There’s not much of a story in the “Fruit Ninja” games. You’re pretty much an apprentice ninja, practicing your swordplay by cutting up fruit that flies onto the screen. You get a few different ways to play . Classic Mode gives you three lives and failure to slice every piece of fruit on the screen costs one life. Hitting the pesky bombs means an instant ‘game over’. You’ve got 60 seconds to score as much as you can in Arcade Mode, with bombs taking away points. The explosives-free Zen Mode lets you just have at an incessant onslaught of fruit for a 90-second time limit. Along the way, magic banana power-ups will give you a score multiplier, let you slow time to a crawl, or spawn a torrent of produce that you can slash madly for extra points.
There’s competitive and co-operative multiplayer modes, too; in the former, players must only slice the fruits that are highlighted with the corresponding red or blue glow. Challenge Mode draws from your Xbox Live friends list and pulls out a buddy’s high score for you to try and beat in a certain amount of time. It’s a nice implementation of social networking designed to keep you playing, in much the same way that seeing your high score bested in the local “Pac-Man” machine back in the day would get you to try and right that wrong.
“Fruit Ninja Kinect” invites you to join its madness. It’s going to make a great party game in that way and it stands out from the sorry, under-realized pile of dreck that makes up the Kinect-compatible library. The jump to a big-screen makes the fruitricidal action feel larger than life, a plus for a fanciful title like this one. Like “World of Goo” on iPad, this feels like a transition that makes an already great game better than its initial iteration.