As I sit here, writing this review, I’m having trouble. Not because it’s hard to find the words, or because I can’t quite decide what I’d like to say about Fruit Ninja VR, but because I really, really want to get back inside. Everyone has different opinions about which VR experience is best to show someone that’s new to the medium, and while a case could still be made for things like The Lab, #SelfieTennis, or other simple examples, but today a new contender for most accessible and fun casual VR experience has arisen and its name is a familiar one; its name is Fruit Ninja VR.
As the latest game from Halfbrick Studios, Fruit Ninja VR takes the exact same premise as their original mobile game, Fruit Ninja and expands it into virtual reality. Luckily, chopping up fruit with ninja swords is just as fun as ever. While it seems incredibly basic and not worth your attention at first, you’ll eventually uncover what’s one of VR’s most addicting games so far.
Since this is just an Early Access release with lots of future updates planned, the current release isn’t necessarily representative of the entire experience. However, what you have available to do right now is more than enough to keep you and your friends competing for a while.
The core game is split into three fundamental game modes: Arcade, Classic, and Zen. Arcade mode tasks you with slicing up as many fruit as you can within the time limit, while avoiding bombs that deduct time from the clock. You can also slice special fruit that provide you with unique power-ups, such as slowing down time (making it easier to line up big combos) and some that blast a torrential downpour of various fruit on you, allowing you to really go crazy with the slashing.
My favorite mode of the bunch, Classic, takes a decidedly different approach. Instead of squaring you off against the clock, you’ll instead have to focus on racking up the biggest combos you can without missing any fruit. If you miss three fruit or hit a single bomb, then you lose. In this way, the mode is about accuracy and consistency more than it is about being the craziest ninja master you can possible be.
Finally, Zen mode eschews the bombs and penalties that are staples of the other two modes and instead lets you go wild. Fruit will fly across the screen in all directions and you’ll have to really work your arms out and flail them around to do your best Wii Sports player impression. It’s a fun distraction from the precision required in the other modes, but I doubt many people will spend much time here.
Across all three modes the mechanics are the same. Each Vive controller in your hand will become a shiny ninja sword with full, accurate, 1:1 motion tracking. Naturally, if you’ve been following the VR gaming scene for long, chances are you’re aware of ZenBlade (formerly known as Ninja Trainer) which already exists in Early Access on Steam. ZenBlade and Fruit Ninja VR are extremely similar, but have a couple of key differences.
For one thing, Fruit Ninja VR allows you to cut fruit in both directions, whereas ZenBlade only lets you use the “sharp” side of the sword. For my preference, only being able to use one side of the sword was more of an annoyance than anything. Fruit Ninja VR also supports dual wielding in all game modes and features a larger variety of fruit and content. I also found the outdoor arena of Fruit Ninja VR more interesting, visually, than the dojo in ZenBlade. I also liked being able to juggle bombs and fruit using the flat side of my sword in Fruit Ninja VR. And online leaderboards are a huge plus as well.
However, the biggest difference that I’ve found, is that in Fruit Ninja VR, you can actually stab the fruit. In ZenBlade, they just bounce away as if you had punched them, but in Fruit Ninja VR they get stuck to the edge of your sword, which adds a lot of strategy to the game, especially in Arcade and Classic mode. When you stab a fruit, you can essentially save it to be used in a combo later, which adds an extra layer of strategy. This is especially useful since often times only one or two fruit will pop up, which feel wasted on their own. Stabbing lets you save them for when more fruit pop up later to perform a better combo.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but if you were considering ZenBlade because you liked Fruit Ninja, then you may as well just get Fruit Ninja VR now that it’s finally released. According to the press release, “Free updates will introduce customisable blades and costumes, new locations and characters from the Fruit Ninja universe, and a PvP battle mode which is currently slated for release in 2016,” but none of those things are in the game currently.
Since this is Early Access, you’re essentially paying now for a game that will grow and get bigger later. Fruit Ninja VR is also slated for eventual release on Oculus Touch, PlayStation VR, and Google Daydream.
Update: Since release, Fruit Ninja VR has continued to evolve, adding more content, and releasing on the Oculus Rift with Touch. Since the game requires you to face forward at all times, it plays perfectly even with just a standard two-sensor setup and standing configuration. Still very highly recommended.
While Fruit Ninja VR is incredibly addicting, easy to jump into for newcomers, and tons of fun to play in its own right, it does feel a bit shallow in its current state. You can expect it to grow significantly over time considering it already has a strong foundation. Halfbrick Studios have proven that Fruit Ninja VR is the prime example of how to take a simple concept and adapt it to the uniquely immersive medium of virtual reality.
Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.