Every so often, a game for the iOS comes along that captures that addictive "just one more round" quality to keep players locked to their devices well past bedtime. Halfbrick Studios' Fruit Ninja is just such a game.
The objective of the game is as obvious as any classic arcade title. Shoot (or in the case of Fruit Ninja, slash) the bad guys (in this case, fruit) while avoiding the bombs. Increase the number and speed of targets and bombs with each progressive level. Miss three targets and the game is over.
What makes Fruit Ninja so compelling is the nuances that elevate these simple rules to a graphically and sonically compelling experience. Slashing your finger across the screen displays a satisfying blade flash of light along with a zing of sound. Striking a fruit slices it open with a deep clump, just what you would expect to hear. The trajectory and behavior of the fruit struck also behaves with uncanny resemblance to the real thing (that is, if the real thing were transformed into a cartoon caricature). Fruit slices splatter their juicy contents on the background and fall to the ground with their pulp and seeds exposed. I even found myself getting hungry for mixed fruit salad after seeing all the varieties of fruit I was dicing up.
Two single player game modes exist: Classic and Zen Mode. Classic is the standard arcade style described above, while Zen Mode is a timed fruit toss with no bombs to halt your progress. Slice as many fruits as you can in the time allotted for a high score. Hint: extra points can be gained by slicing more fruit simultaneously.
In addition to the single player game, Fruit Ninja HD offers a dual player split screen challenge mode where players compete for the highest score while lobbing bombs at each other to mess up their concentration and targeting accuracy. These head-to-head battles turns the iPad into a welcome addition to a party since the screen is large enough for an audience to gather around and watch the players battle it out. And because the game is so easy to learn, anyone who can zip their finger across a screen has the basic skills ready to play.
As players continue to exceed high scores, the game unlocks "Sensei's Swag" which are replacement colors and designs for the blade flash and backgrounds that appears on screen. These include such selections as Old Glory, Disco Blade and Original Wood. Some of the achievements require certain quantities of fruits sliced to be attained (for example, the Great Wave wall background requires 250 sliced watermelons to unlock the selection).
Along with the built-in ability to post high scores to player's Twitter and Facebook accounts, the game includes the OpenFeint gaming client to connect to other Internet-connected players for leaderboard access. However, now that Apple's Game Center is online, I suspect that the Halfbrick team are hard at work incorporating that service into the game as well.
Overall, Fruit Ninja HD is a wonderfully easy and highly addictive game to play either alone or against a friend. The touch and finger swipe interface, graphics and sound demonstrate how a talented game design shop like Halfbrick can turn the iPad into a killer game machine. This game is one that will showcase your iPad for a long time to come.
Product: Fruit Ninja HD
Developer: Halfbrick Studios
Rating: 4/5 stars