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‘Fruit Ninja VR’ Early Access Review: A Reimagined Classic

by David Jagneaux • July 7th, 2016
Platform: HTC Vive and Oculus Rift with Touch
Positives

- Incredibly addicting
- Fun, varied game modes
- New mechanics like stabbing
- Bright and colorful visuals

Negatives

- Feels a bit shallow on content
- Sometimes the physics feel off

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.

fruit ninja vr screenshot 3

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.

fruit ninja vr screenshot 4

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.

Final Score: 8/10 – Great

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.

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  • Torgrim Ruud

    A shallow early access game that shows promise is 8 out of 10? I think your score system is off.

    • “Feels a bit shallow” and being downright shallow is a difference of interpretation. I feel confident that the content of the review clearly communicates the value and why it received an 8. It’s incredibly fun and addicting, hard to quantify something like that.

      • Torgrim Ruud

        I think this score represents an 8 out of 10 compared to available games today. In other words a relative score rather than a fixed where 10 is actually almost impossible to achieve.

        To me a game of 8/10 is something like Starcraft 2. Diablo 3 I would probably score a 7 or 8. Skyrim to me is 8 or maybe 9.

        Are you telling me Fruit Ninja compares to these games? Or does Fruit Ninja score an 8 compared to Waltz of The Wizard and Vanishing Realms? A relative score has very little significance. A fixed one however will be much more reliable.

        Too much praise too early just serves to negatively affect the impact of the games that actually deserve it. “Cry wolf”-ish

        • Will Mason

          I think you have to take the scores as relative to the current state of VR. Is Fruit Ninja Starcraft 2? No. But no VR game really is there yet – not enough time in the oven. When scoring games its against what is already out there.

          • Torgrim Ruud

            That’s not how quality reviews are done. Any quality review, whether it is movies, music or games, has always been on a fixed scale where the top score is almost impossible to get.

            What I am saying has nothing to do with Fruit Ninja. It might very well be a very good game considering the current state of VR.

            The problem is that in 6 months or 18 months your scale isn’t going to matter for shit because you’ve given early access games an 8 when they clearly are not objectively an 8. It’s great to promote VR saying “Hey, everything is awesome. 3 months in and we have games worth an 8/10”. Yes that will attract more people, but it will also disappoint people.

            Any media outlet worth a damn has always had a fixed scale rating system because relative scales don’t work long term.

          • All reviews are subjective and all reviews are relative to their market and industry. Using your own type of example, a free-to-play mobile game may be reviewed as an 8/10 by the same outlet that gives a 20-hour AAA console or PC game the same score. That doesn’t mean the games are the same type of experience. The score is designed to reflect the individual review and opinion of the reviewer – it’s not a static scale that’s considered law across all platforms and markets. As the market evolves, so too do expectations.

          • Torgrim Ruud

            I’m not talking about a static scale across all games. I’m talking about a static scale for VR games. And by static I mean that it has to work long term. Giving something a 8/10 now when there are bound to be amazing games within a year or two is only hurting peoples trust in that scale. Is Fruit Ninja going to be an 8/10 (in it’s current state) in a year from now? I doubt it.

            But this has gone on far enough. I don’t think I can make my point any clearer. Love a good discussion tho! 🙂

          • duked

            I see your point, Torgrim, but if using a fixed scale, how would you have rated Space Invaders back in the day? Would you give it a 2 out of 5, as there would probably come much better games 10+ years later, like Doom? I think Space Invaders was a 5/5 in the 1970’s, it was so great, but nowadays, compared to modern games, maybe it’s like a 2 or 3 (of 5).

          • Torgrim Ruud

            Well, that was a really interesting question Duked. 🙂
            Most definitely the hardest question to answer thus far.

            The scenario doesn’t work 100% because you couldn’t compare Space Invaders in the 70’s to Skyrim. In the 70’s Space Invaders was the best. But what is the best today? We can narrow it down and say that it’s an 8/10 of all VR games, but that’s like saying Steven Segal movies are 8/10 compared only to cheesy action movies. And we all know Steven Segal sure as hell don’t deserve no 8 😛

            I think it is fair to compare VR games to traditional games. But as I mentioned earlier there is nothing wrong with using more than one score to come up with a final one. Thus conveying that Fruit Ninja might not compare to Skyrim, but as VR games goes it is great.

          • duked

            Well it’s very hard to compare games in a truly fair way.

            If I were to review Super Mario 3D World, and gave it a 8/10, should that mean that it is just as good as Skyrim? Or simply mean that it’s a really great platformer – one of the best in its genre? Or that it is such a good platformer that gamers who normally don’t play Mario games, but love Skyrim, will find it good, too?

            Should an 8 out of 10 mobile game mean that it is as good as an 8/10 PC-game or just that it’s among the best of games for cell phones/tablets?

            When David Jagneaux gave Fruit Ninja VR a score of 8/10, I (personally) expect it to mean that he had as much fun (or almost) with FN VR as he had with a game like Skyrim (at least in the short run), considering the whole package (game play, immersion, controls, etc.). As he also wrote that he enjoyed the original Fruit Ninja (which for me was fun for about 60 seconds), I expect from his review score that I will give it maybe a 5/10 (VR-versions of casual games can be much better than their shitty touch controlled originals).

            I agree that separate scores for things like immersion, sound, gameplay, graphics, artistic work, etc. leading up to a final score can be an improvement.

          • Torgrim Ruud

            What the scale should represent is how entertaining it is. So how do you measure entertainment? Well first of all it’s subjective, but certain areas of it can be more objective. “For how long is it entertaining?” is a good example. Is there depth and variance in the game or is it repetitive?

            It is by these standards I find Fruit Ninja to be lacking. I ended up doing my own yt review of it and to be honest I find Space Pirate Trainer to be far better because the feeling of presence is much great when being shot at.

            And lastly – VR is absolutely fantastic. It is a marvel that will alter not only gaming but many aspects of life. We don’t actually need to brag or inflate our scores. Someone trying VR for the first time playing Fruit Ninja will be amazed. We shouldn’t try so hard to sell VR – it is selling itself.

        • rosesarered23

          for pure fun, I think Fruit Ninja VR can be compared to Vanishing Realms. Right now VR is in its infancy and what makes it good is the experience a game can bring to its player. If you feel like you’re really in the environment, that’s amazing. If the haptic feedback really enhances the experience, and the sound intensifies it, and you add to that a sparkly, colorful world…without the tracking issues so many games suffer from, without the crashes…yeah, I think this stacks right up there with the best of what I’ve played in VR. It’s exactly what you want out of its type of game. It feels like you’ve jumped into your iPhone or Android and are literally in the world you’re so familiar with, and that’s exciting. I really like Vanishing Realms, and Brookhaven and theBlu, they’re all wonderful, but I would say this is one of my favorites. A lot of what makes a game great is how it makes you feel. AudioShield was the same way for me. Maybe it’s not the most beautiful or complex, but they did a fantastic job of taking something we know and love and bringing it into a new space, and that’s not cry-wolf praise. Just my two cents. 🙂

  • Nando Calrissian

    You can stab fruit and juggle bombs with the flat surface of the sword also in Zenblade.

    The writer says that only being able to cut fruit with the “sharp” edge is annoying, I think it’s the most interesting take that differentiate the game, and make the game more simulation than arcade, hence challenging.

    I love Fruit Ninja, but diminishing the strong points of Zenblade, doesn’t make this game better, both have pros and cons, choose whatever fits your needs.

    • I was aware you could juggle, I just prefer the physics in FN. The stabbing must be a recent update since I played last, it never worked for me.

      I also don’t feel like I diminished the strong points of ZenBlade, I laid out the comparisons and explained my preferences. All reviews are subjective 🙂

      • Nando Calrissian

        I know preferences matter in a review, sorry if it was not your intention, don’t take my comment in a bad way, but I kinda felt thru the reading that zenblade was just an inferior experience, but the truth is that both are really great on their own, what a time we live in that we confront opinions on what’s the best vr ninja slicing fruit game

  • rosesarered23

    I’ve played Fruit Ninja for years, it’s one of my addictions. In VR it’s everything I hoped it’d be. I played ZenBlade, and it’s precise and more…realistic sorta, but not nearly as light and fun. I love the color and sound and feel of Fruit Ninja and always have. The sound effects that are different for different fruits, the combo noises, and in this game, the way the music gets louder as your combos build…everything adds up to an incredibly addictive experience. For early access, the game is very robust, with all three of its original modes. I can’t wait for the weird achievements, new blades and new locations. It’s already worth what in the VR world would be a decently expensive game, in my eyes, and I cannot wait for its updates. I had to pull myself away after 125 minutes of slicing and dicing.

  • unreal_ed

    My biggest gripe with this game is that it’s dumbing down the experience of using a sword. If you watch the video carefully you can see that the cuts aren’t that precise, and it works more on a “you swung the sword fast enough and close enough to the fruit so we’ll make a cut appear on it” rather than ZenBlade’s accurate slices and cuts. That’s why they cover it with the big slash effects (not just the white line but the stuff behind the fruit too) and the fruits being cut AFTER the swing. To me that’s hand-holding that both fight against presence and just dumb down the play. It’s SORT OF like if you completely missed the fruit but it cut it anyway and just told you “wow you’re amazing! Have 500 points!” (tho of course that’s a much exaggerated example). To note, that’s a different argument than the annoyance (or not) of having a 1-sided sword vs a 2-sided sword.

    It’s like ZenBlade cares about giving me *big quote* REAL life skills *big unquote* whereas Fruit Ninja cares about giving me points to make me “feel good”.
    Disclaimer: I have not tried this game, so this is footage-based opinion. But Halfbrick (like a lot of mobile devs) have always been about rewarding with points and missions instead of developing the intrinsic play and raising the challenge.

    • I totally get your point and I think that’s certainly why both of these games will likely co-exist. Overtime, FN will grow more and more ridiculous and silly while ZenBlade will (hopefully) refine itself to be a more accurate representation.

      At the end of the day, this is a VR adaptation of a mobile game about swiping fruit, I don’t think it was ever intended to be a realistic simulation of being a ninja.

      • unreal_ed

        Yea totally. But I think everyone wants to believe that if they played this quite a bit they’d be actually decent at doing this in real life. And ninjas are assassins so they definitely didn’t do anything involving fruits (or fighting with swords probably). On the note of ninja simulation, it’d be cool if you could actually throw shurikens too in this.