I reported last week on my three favourite Xbox Live Arcade games from this summer’s Summer of Arcade series: Bastion, From Dust, and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. There are two others: Toy Soldiers: Cold War—the 1980s-era follow up to the action-packed tower defense game Toy Soldiers, which debuted on Xbox Live Arcade last year—and Fruit Ninja Kinect, an Xbox 360 port of the popular fruit slicer available for mobile devices.
I haven’t spent much time yet with Cold War, but it seems to stick pretty closely to the playful army-men-come-to-life formula established by its predecessor. I loved the original, and I suspect this one will prove equally entertaining. Look for it on Xbox Live Arcade on Wednesday this week. I have, on the other hand, put in a fair bit of time with Fruit Ninja Kinect, which released last Wednesday, and one thing became apparent within moments of booting it up: It’s pretty much identical to its wee-screen forerunner.
For those yet to try the blockbuster app on your phone, here’s how it works: watermelons, kiwis, strawberries and other fruits are thrown into the air from the bottom of the screen, and your job is to slice them in half by running your finger through them—or, in the case of the Kinect edition, swiping your hand through the air.
Varying modes see slight shifts in objectives, such as trying to avoid bombs that get mixed in with the fruit, achieving specific point goals, and working with or against a second player. And a few special fruits—like a banana that slows down time and a hard, fleshy gourd that can be slice multiple times for bonus points—keep players on their toes. But that’s really all there is to the action.
I suppose I ought not to have expected more. Part of Fruit Ninja's appeal is its brevity and simplicity. But when I saw its inflated XBLA price—800 Microsoft Points (around $12) as opposed to the $1 to $3 it costs on phones and tablets—I thought maybe the developers would have found some way to add a little depth. But they didn't. There's no story, no long term goals, nothing to keep one at it for more than the few minutes I normally spend playing Fruit Ninja on my phone while waiting in line at coffee shop.
I suppose one could argue that Kinect adds value. It definitely turns the experience into a minor physical workout (my daughter fell asleep immediately after playing for about 20 minutes).
But there are also drawbacks. Kinect is a slightly less precise interface than a touch screen. I accidentally chop bombs far more often in the Kinect edition than I do in the iPad version, and selecting items in the menus—accomplished by chopping word-bearing fruit—can be an exercise in frustration. Developer Halfbrick really should have just stuck with Kinect’s standard hover-for-a-couple-seconds method.
It’s nice to see popular games from the mobile space ported to more traditional game platforms. It brings them to new audiences and may even help legitimize their quality among serious gamers. However, they ought to be priced accordingly. The ability to play a game on a bigger screen doesn’t suddenly make it worth four, six, or twelve times its original value.
Fruit Ninja Kinect
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Platform: Xbox 360