Fruit Ninja makes sense in VR. Swinging swords at flurries of fruit was a clever capitalisation on touch control that feels just as conducive to motion. A few years back it would’ve been hard to argue that motion controls didn’t come and go with the Wii, but here we are with magic glasses on swinging sticks at nothing. Immersion in a virtual environment doesn’t just elevate motion controls, though, it validates them. The movement of my hands relative to my own eyes convinces me in a way a reflection of my motions on a screen, in retrospect, never could have. A bright, boisterous example of this is Fruit Ninja VR.
Swinging swords is fun. It’s a basic conceit for a game, but it ain’t broke. Slicing apples, carving through a row of pineapples, stabbing straight through a banana or juggling your targets on the flat of your blades are satisfying mechanics. Cleaving through multiple fruits with a single swing nets more points than reckless slashing, encouraging a degree of strategy and balancing thoughtfulness with outright physicality. That’s not to say the inherent ferocity of Fruit Ninja didn’t tire me out after a few rounds, though.
Four modes make up Fruit Ninja VR; Arcade, Classic, Zen and Survival. Arcade gives you sixty seconds to do your best, measuring your abilities with a score when the clock hits zero. Amongst the fruit, though, are helpful power-ups and time limiting bombs. Carefully bumping away explosives to clear the space for a full swipe feels like a momentous accomplishment every time. Power-ups come in a variety of flavours, whether they slow down the fruit flow, multiply your score-getting potential, or shoot streams of fruit straight into swinging range. They do a lot to keep the gameplay colourful, but just a few more could have gone a long way.
Neither Classic or Zen mode stray too far from Arcade. Classic replaces the time limit with three crosses. Hit a bomb or miss a fruit, you get a cross. Three crosses, and it’s all over. Zen mode removes all punishments and threats, tossing tonnes of fruit, fresh for one to flail at wildly. Without repercussions for recklessness, Zen doesn’t feel as skilful to master as its peers, but some of the most empowering moments I’ve had with Fruit Ninja VR were delivered by the sheer quantity of free fruit here.
Survival mode stands out. A flying helicopter-container shoots fruit straight at the player, creating an interestingly adversarial competition. A second shooter joins in pretty quickly, putting pressure on the player to use both of their swords. Accurately aiming slices through the groups of fruit coming straight for me takes some practice and besting each of the buzzing baskets attacks instils a certain delicate pride. The simple complexity of Survival mode has me saddened that Fruit Ninja VR doesn’t offer some kind of mission-based campaign – something that would have gone far in keeping me coming back. As an arcade-style high-score chasing practice, though, it has all it needs.
The cartoon style of Fruit Ninja contributes a lot to the believably of the environment in VR, as well as the lightheartedness of the game. Vividly coloured buildings surround the sunny playing space to convey the jolliest dojo ever created, while the bright aesthetic keeps things visually recognisable, with thick outlines making targets even easier to spot. The sounds of fruit popping from below, shooting from the sides or being blasted from above along with the varying controller rumble of striking down a healthy foe help keep Fruit Ninja VR feel like the well packaged, endearing product that it is.
Fruit Ninja VR likely won’t surprise anyone with what it does, but it just might with how well it does it. Swinging swords feels good, and motion feels perfectly accurate while still being helpfully forgiving. The positive energy and whimsical aesthetic form a consistently fun atmosphere, accentuating the simple-yet-satisfying mechanics of cutting up bad snacks. Fruit Ninja VR is a great VR title that exemplifies the strengths of motion control in virtual reality.