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Hands-on with Fruit Ninja for the iPhone

Halfbrick Studios is an Australian game developer that's done a few licensed games on other platforms before along with the App Store title Blast Off, and they're back on the iPhone today with Fruit Ninja, a simple-but-fun arcade game that has you hacking fruit in half on the iPhone's touchscreen. The game just went live on the App Store moments ago.

We at TUAW got a chance to play the game early, and our exclusive hands-on review is after the break. Fruit Ninja is simple but polished -- while the game mechanic is well done and well-supported with excellent graphics and sound, the gameplay itself is almost too shallow to support the rest of the design. The game's only 99 cents, and there's definitely 99 cents of entertainment here, but I wish there was even more.

The game's absurd premise is that ninjas hate fruit, and the idea is that it's fun to "slash" fruit in half with a sword slash controlled by swiping around the touchscreen. As you play the game, various fruits are catapulted into the air on the screen, and your job is to swipe your finger like a sword through them before they hit the ground.

The graphics are colorful and well-done, with fruit juice splattering in brilliant fashion on the back walls. The physics are impressive, and the sliced fruit falls convincingly back down to the floor. Sound is good as well, with your sword making cool slashy noises and the different types of fruit separating with a nice slicing effect. Even the menus are very well done -- to navigate the game's menus, you slash through icons, which then split and fall off the screen just like during the game.

However, while the game's mechanic is fun (it is a good time slicing fruit in half), the game itself doesn't have any more depth than that. As you play, eventually bombs will start popping up along with the fruit, and if you hit one of those, the game is over. You do have three Xs on the screen, and each one of those mark off when unsliced fruit hits the ground, but bombs are one-hit, one kill, and as their placement seems to be pretty random, it can be a real bummer when you've hit quite a bit of fruit and then accidentally slice a bomb since your finger was in the way. Every once in a while you'll hit "Criticals" on the fruit, which will raise your score, but those are random as well, not based on skill at all. It'd be nice to see a little more depth to the game, maybe another mode or maybe a few more items popping up -- perhaps one that allowed you to freeze time or get one of your Xs back.

OpenFeint is integrated well, along with Twitter and Facebook, but the game only tracks two scores: your current game's score, and how much fruit you've sliced overall. Again, it would be nice to see some more depth, maybe a mode where you only slashed bananas or something like that. Achievements do cover some of that ground, but they don't really change the game -- even if you're going after bananas, you'll still lose when three non-sliced fruits hit the ground.

Fruit Ninja was obviously built around a core gameplay idea, and it supports that core idea well -- slicing fruit is a good time, and this game will let you do it. But unfortunately, Halfbrick hasn't chosen to go any deeper, and if you're seeking a game that has any extra modes or minigame variants, you won't find it here. Still, the low price makes the game more than worth it for the occasional few minutes of fruit chopping that you'll get. Fruit Ninja is available in the App Store today for 99 cents.

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