The GU iOS Game of the Week -- Fruit Ninja HD
- By: CM Boots-Faubert
- Posted 18th May 2012
As a general rule, when you look close enough most video games have a story behind them that explains how they came to be, and the Fruit Ninja games are no exception to this rule. Their story starts with what was a small Australian game developer called Halfbrick Studios that at the time was best known for a handful of game series -- Ty the Tasmanian Tiger being one of them, and a series of games that were based upon cartoons from the Nicktoons network, most notably Rocket Power: Beach Bandits (2002), Nicktoons: Battle for Volcano Island (2006), and their game series based upon the Avatar cartoons -- Avatar: The Last Air Bender (2007), Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Burning Earth (2007) and Avatar: The Last Airbender - Into the Inferno (2008).
With its specialty squarely established in the realm of handheld games, the appearance of a series of Indie titles created specifically for the Xbox LIVE Arcade Indie Games market -- Halfbrick Blast Off, Halfbrick Echoes, and Halfbrick Rocket Racing -- the studio began to receive attention from both the critics and reviewers and the gaming community that elevated awareness of the studio and extended its reputation into the console realms.
Much of the buzz generated on the Indie scene naturally transferred to the Fruit Ninja series when the first title, Fruit Ninja (prominently known as Fruit Ninja HD on the iPad and Fruit Ninja THD for Nvidia Tegra 2-based Android devices) launched in 2010, and it was a combination of that buzz and the very high quality and addictive nature of the Fruit Ninja concept that propelled the small studio in Brisbane, Australia, into the new level of gamer awareness that the studio has maintained ever since.
Released on April 21st for the popular iOS platforms including the iPod Touch and iPhone, a version made specifically for the iPad quickly followed on July 12th, with the Android OS version following in September, firmly establishing the Fruit Ninja games as a mobile gaming fixture in the market. Not surprisingly a version for the new Windows Phone gaming platform debuted in December, with versions for Samsung's Bada and Nokia's Symbian platforms being released in March of 2011.
The use of the word "Addictive" for most games is really stretching it, but in the case of Fruit Ninja HD, it is completely accurate -- this is an addictive game that will easily find you seeking it out in practically every instance where you have a free minute for play...
Adaption of the Fruit Ninja games to the motion-controlled console platforms was widely viewed as an inevitable transition for the games, with the release of Fruit Ninja Kinect for the Xbox 360 + Kinect in August 2011 again pushed the studio into a higher realm of attention, delivering a measure of success that required significant adjustment for the studio, who somehow managed to retain their original plan to provide a quality game experience at an affordable price -- sales numbers for the Fruit Ninja Kinect version quickly exceeded the estimates that Halfbrick expected, rapidly hitting and surpassing the three million download mark and reaching an unexpected four-million downloads in December 2010.
The basic premise of the game has players slicing fruit thrown into the air by swiping at it with imaginary swords -- with fingers on the device's touch screen representing the sword, and in the case of the Xbox 360 + Kinect version, the player's arms and hands replacing their finger as the sword. The highly addictive and competitive nature of the games naturally required the addition of features like its multiple gameplay modes, leaderboards and a robust multi-player format, and the addition of these features along with the overall attractiveness of the with the games being very well received by critics and consumers alike.
Game reviewers felt that the low cost of the games combined with their high quality, pleasing gameplay environment, and the addictive gameplay combined for a most excellent value in terms of modern gaming, and widely praised the game's support services as well as its aggressive updates schedule provided by Halfbrick as marks of the overall excellence of the games -- praise that increased when the studio added online multi-player, Achievements, and expanded leaderboards to the game.
In the end when the opinions of the critics, reviewers, and gamers are distilled down to a more useful common impression of the game we are left with a single unified opinion -- Fruit Ninja is Fun all the time, providing gamers with a predicable measure of game play, and the expectations of being entertained without the usual gaps of make-work that often appear in mobile games, and more importantly it also presents as the sort of fun that is addictive, compelling, and rewarding. You don't often experience all of those factors in a single game, and when you do, that is the game you want to have on your mobile device.
Multi-player support in the game is neatly divided between actual multi-player (both local and net) in which you compete directly with another player, and the traditional sort of play in which your high score is the bone being fought over. Either way every player is a winner!
A Little Hand's On Gaming
Game play in the recently updated menus for the iPad version presents specific options, starting with the top level of the menu, in which the players choose either New Game (which leads to the game play menu that offers the individual play choices), Openfeint, which takes the player to the leaderboards, the sale options for that online platform, and presents the opportunity to explore the other games in the platform, Dojo, which includes Sensei's Swag, the Fruit Store, and an About section that provides the gamer with a little cred info listing the people behind the game and a brief Zen-like description. Additional selections are available on screen to become a Facebook Fan, add yourself as a follower on Twitter, and change your default view.
The Fruit Store is just what you expect it to be -- a storefront in which the iconic plush toy merch can be had, while the Sensei's Swag offers a selection of custom blades and backgrounds that the player can choose -- assuming that they have unlocked them through play and scoring special combos that is!
Game Center takes the player to a sliding list of the Achievements that they have unlocked and those yet to be unlocked, with each individual listing detailing the accomplishments that the player aspires to in order to unlock that particular Achievement. The More Games selection presents the Halfbrick sale page on the App Store, while Multi-Player naturally enough takes the gamer to a menu in which they can set up a multi-player match either with gamers they know, or random gamers they do not.
Of all of the menu choices the most productive and desirable is, of course, the New Game selection, which is represented by a large Watermelon that the player must slice open to access -- and when they do they find three gratifying selections: Classic, Arcade, and Zen Mode.
Zen Mode is a 90 Second game very similar to Arcade but without the Bombs and without lives, while Arcade Mode presents the player with 60 seconds of game play in which every sort of fruit (including bombs) are present for their slicing pleasure!
Classic Mode is perhaps the most challenging since it lacks a timer, and presents the player with an increasing number of fruit at increasing speeds and intermixes bombs with the fruit that, when accidentally sliced, kills the player! The advantages of Classic Mode over the others are clearly seated in the lack of a timer, allowing the player to score very high -- assuming that they can resist slicing into a bomb that is -- which explains why this mode is the most popular for friendly high-score competitive play.
Fruit is not one of those subjects that most people contemplate on a regular basis unless they happen to be employed in a fruit-based career, so it is not unusual for the average player to be a bit surprised at the wide number and variety of fruit that they encounter in the game -- and while the first time that they find themselves slicing into a Pomegranate may be the first time that they have ever seen that particular fruit (not us, we eat them and drink their juice on a regular basis) though it is the special nature of the fruit in the game that usually grabs the attention, since a Pomegranate in Fruit Ninja is one of the special fruits that presents a partially frozen time-slowing effect while the player is expected to slice and slice and slice away at it for bonus score!
What makes the Pomegranate special? Perhaps it is that the seeds are surrounded by a thin layer of fruit, and the fruit is surrounded by a thick layer of the protective pulpy substance that makes up the outer layers -- so in a Zen way it makes complete sense that any good Fruit Ninja would need to take many slices at that particular fruit, since they must expose the actual fruit-covered seeds in order to reach them and, this may come as a surprise, discover that there are hundreds of small bits of fruit inside that large red sphere!
Game play in Classic Mode is made up of a very simple set of rules: you begin with three lives (represented by three blue X's in the upper right corner of the screen). Each of those "lives" allows you to miss one fruit each -- that is to say that failing to slice a fruit and having it fall back down the bottom of the screen will cost you one X -- do that three times and it is game over. Slice into a bomb and it is game over. But successfully slice each piece of fruit while avoiding the bombs allows the player to rack up impressive scores as they slice and dice in Ninja fashion, finding and engaging the odd Pomegranate or specially-colored bonus fruit, and bisecting the occasional Critical Fruit for extra points, and you fully grok Classic Mode!
You often see reviewers using phrases like "Incredibly Fun" and "Very Addictive" but more often than not those are just the canned phrases that they use with any game they are reviewing that did not make them want to walk off of a tall building. In the case of Fruit Ninja HD those are very accurate phrases but even so, they fail to communicate the very essence of what the game is. The only way that this game could be made better is if there was a way to add smell to it, so that each time you sliced into an apple or pear, a watermelon or a coconut, you could smell their very distinctive perfume -- that would add so much to the game, that dimension of smell.
A vivid imagination will certainly help in expanding the entertainment potential for Fruit Ninja, and being lucky enough to be a member of the population that thinks in pictures but also enjoys the possession of Eidetic Memory -- around 65% of the world population thinks in pictures rather than words, but it is estimated that only around 5% of the picture thinkers also possess Eidetic Memory (what is usually called Photographic Memory). An even smaller percentage of that group enjoys the ability to remember smells and recall them at will -- some of the best perfume engineers are so blessed, as is your reviewer), but we still maintain that adding smell-o-vision to this game would add to its enjoyment immensely.
Perhaps the most common reason for gamers not playing a game, or choosing not to even try it, has to do with presumption. Or is it assumption? The idea that by reading the game's description they can tell without ever playing it or seeing it played that it is not the game for them. Your reviewer presumed that when Fruit Ninja first appeared on the gaming scene and never played it or even tried it out -- so imagine his surprise when, having downloaded a copy of the game for review it turned out to be the most fun that they had playing a mobile game in, well, a long time. So much for presumption, assumption, and knowing your likes.
Fruit Ninja HD is a game that, once it is installed on your mobile gaming platform of choice, will very likely find its way to the top of your regular gameplay rotation list simply because it is intensely fun but also because it perfectly fits into the genre because in many respects it is the perfect mobile game. At least part of what makes it perfect in this genre is that game play is nearly instant and predictable, and there is very little set-up or downtime in play.
The default language for Fruit Ninja HD is English, but as is usually the case with the really good games, it gets localized for a lot of other languages and the screenshot pictured here shows you the localization for French. C'était très amusant!
The average Fruit Ninja game lasts 60 to 90 seconds, and leaves the player happy when it ends, which is not something that you can easily say about most mobile games. In the opinion of this reviewer we should celebrate games that make you happy you played them, and encourage other gamers to experience that sort of happiness. Because when we examine that particular statistic closely we find that unless you are Canadian (a culture in which its members are happy on a regular basis for no apparent reason) obtaining that measure of happiness in your day is uncommon. So play Fruit Ninja, be happy!
After seriously over-indulging in this game for several weeks this reviewer is confident that a Two-Thumbs-Up rating is well deserved -- actually we borrowed the right hand of another staff member so that we could give it a Three-Thumbs-Up rating, but the editor here at GU called that on a technicality, declaring that only limbs attached to the reviewer were allowed to be used in the declaration of a review score for the iOS Game of the Week. Editor's are like that... After giving the matter careful thought though, your reviewer believes that they have found a reasonable alternative -- and happily gives Fruit Ninja HD a Two-Thumbs-and-One-Big-Toe-Up rating! Take that, Mister Editor Man!
Fruit Ninja HD for the iPad can be found on the Apple App Store at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fruit-ninja-hd/id370066032?mt=8 for just .99 cents US, in the category of Games, with the most recent version being 1.7.4 and its storage footprint weighing in at right around 28.5 MB. The game's default language is English and it was created by and is sold by Halfbrick Studios. Fruit Ninja HD can be enjoyed by gamers as young as 4 according to its rating, though we can easily see a really bright three-year-old having fun with it, we are just saying...