Fuser isn’t Rock Band Blitz 2 or a new Amplitude. Instead, it’s a rhythm game about creating new music using classic and modern hits. It’s a joy to play, even when you make some truly awful stuff.
Released last week, Fuser is developed by Harmonix, the studio behind popular music games like Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Dance Central, and Amplitude. The studio also helped create the criminally underrated Dropmix, a card game that utilised a small plastic accessory and your phone to create original music mixes using samples of popular songs. If that sounds a lot like Fuser, well, that’s because they are extremely similar. That’s not a bad thing; I’m happy that Harmonix has taken the basic ideas and systems from Dropmix and expanded them into a fully digitally video game. This move allows Fuser to include more songs and add more in the future at a lower price than a physical game. It also allows for online play, easier ways to share and stream your creations and more structure to the game itself, a major problem Dropmix faced.
In Fuser, players take on the role of a custom DJ character who is trying to work their way up through the music festival industry. Early gigs and concerts take place in the wee hours of the morning and limit what you can do. But these early gigs also act as simple and effective tutorials, teaching you how Fuser works.
Most of what you do in Fuser is take records, which correspond to different songs from artists like Lizzo, Megadeath, Lady Gaga, and Rick Astley, and pop them onto your DJ table. Your table has four open slots, and when you grab a record you pick what part of the song you are placing down. So, for example, you can grab the vocals from “Born This Way” and pop them down, then grab the drums from “Better Now” by Post Malone and have them play together. The magic happens behind the scenes, with Fuser matching tempo and keys with each record you place. (Though you can mess with these settings too if you want to create some truly awful creations.)
Screenshot: Harmonix / Kotaku
The end result is both an entertaining game that challenges you to create and evolve a show for a crowd that will demand certain songs and a tool to create music mash-ups. In a lot of ways, the campaign in Fuser is more of a giant, well-made tutorial for the tool. And that’s where a lot of fun can be had in Fuser. Being able to mix together songs that have no business being together is a blast, especially if you have someone over or do it over Zoom with friends. Watching them react as you lay down some terrible creation, then watching them become oddly into it as you mess with the tempo or add more, is a lot of fun.
You can also easily share good, bad, and weird mixes you have made with the rest of the Fuser community or use your console’s sharing tools to upload clips to Twitter. Though, be careful streaming or creating videos about Fuser, as the game’s large library of tracks isn’t completely legally cleared to be shared that way.
This is Gasket, my DJ Techno-Cowboy. (Screenshot: Harmonix / Kotaku)
However, the in-game sharing and viewing tools are more than enough for me at the moment. I’ve gotten a real kick out of finding wild mixes people are putting together, some of which have inspired me to try out new things.
Once you get past the campaign in Fuser, the real meat and potatoes of the game are the music creation features, with a lot of advanced options that will take some practice to fully figure out. But all of that’s ok with me, because what is here is a fun, accessible, and deep music mixing tool that already has a large library of tracks. And if past Harmonix games are any indication, this library will keep growing.