In Fruit Ninja, the player slices fruit with a blade controlled via a touch pad. As the fruit is thrown onto the screen, the player swipes their finger across the screen to create a slicing motion, attempting to slice the fruit in half. Extra points are awarded for slicing multiple fruits with one swipe, and players can use additional fingers to make multiple slices simultaneously. Players must slice all fruit; if three fruits are missed, the game ends, but upon reaching scores that are multiples of one hundred (i.e. 100, 200, 300, etc.), the player will gain an extra life (unless they have not missed a piece of fruit already). Bombs are occasionally thrown onto the screen, and will also end the game should the player slice them.
A mode known as Zen mode allows players to seek high scores without the hindrance of bombs appearing on the screen. Also available is an Arcade mode in which players have only sixty seconds to achieve a high score. Special bananas are added to the standard fruit which have unique bonuses such as doubling points scored for a limited time, increasing the amount of fruit on the screen, or slowing down the movement of all fruit for a short period of time. In Classic and Arcade mode, special pomegranates are occasionally thrown on screen. In Arcade Mode, it is guaranteed that at the end of each game that a pomegranate will appear. Players can slice these multiple times to get extra points. Similarly, an ultra rare pitya sometimes appears in Classic and Arcade modes which, if sliced, awards players fifty points.
Multiplayer gameplay is supported on iOS devices through Apple's Game Center application. It allows for competitive gameplay and features leaderboards and achievements. During multiplayer matches the player's blade and fruit are highlighted in blue, while the opponent's are highlighted in red. White outlined fruit are considered neutral and may be claimed by either player. White outlined fruit are worth three points. Players must slice their own fruit while avoiding their opponent's fruit. The iPad version of the game features enhanced graphics and also supports local multiplayer, with the screen being divided in half and each player controlling half of the screen. Players can also share high scores via Open Feint, Twitter and Facebook.
Fruit Ninja was well received by critics and consumers. The iOS version sold over 200,000 copies in its first month. It passed two million units sold in September 2010, with the total reaching four million in December 2010. By March 2011 total downloads across all platforms exceeded 20 million. In May 2012 it reached 300 million downloads, and was on one third of all US iPhones. The Windows Phone 7 version was the top application downloaded the week of December 28, 2010. It was also named one of Time magazine's 50 Best iPhone Apps of 2011.
Reviewers were mostly unified in the overall fun factor in the game. Levi Buchanan of IGN stated that the game was "fun, fun, fun" and "an instant pleasure". Slide to Play's Chris Reed agreed and felt that the game was perfect for when a consumer has short moments of boredom. He likened this to playing the game while waiting in line for something and stated "it'll slice the time in half." Jim Squires of GameZebo felt the gameplay was simple and addictive. Geoff Gibson of DIYGamer stated that he could see Fruit Ninja "becoming the next “big thing” on the App Store." Several reviewers praised price and Halfbrick's commitment to continual updates to the game. GameZone's James Pikover stated "perhaps the best part is that this game isn’t even complete." He then spoke of the future game modes to be made available and lauded the value-to-price ratio. App Spy's Andrew Nesvadba agreed that Halfbrick's commitment and updates were "nothing short of spectacular." He also praised the game's graphics and said they were "luscious". The reviewer from BuzzFocus praised the game's inexpensive price and said consumers "should really be downloading this app right now."
The game's scoring system and difficulty were received to mixed commentary. Chris Reed of Slide to Play felt that there should have been an option to increase the game's difficulty curve. Andrew Nesvadba of App Spy felt that since the bonus items were random the ability to beat a high score was made more difficult. DIYGamer's Geoff Gibson also shared this sentiment. James Pikover of GameZone, Geoff Gibson of DIYGamer and Levi Buchanan of IGN all praised the game's ability to boast scores to friends and family via Facebook and Twitter.