Developer: Harmonix Music Systems
Genre: Rhythm, Music, Party, Multiplayer
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 10.11.2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Legendary rhythm game developer Harmonix brings a DJ mixing game to the table but is it up to scratch? Find out in this Rapid Review.
A Festival In Your Living Room
Fuser offers over one hundred different songs which can be mixed together in the three different modes on offer. In all modes, you will find a deck with four different slots where a multitude of genres can be combined. Who knew Kendrick Lamar and Dolly Parton could sound so good together?
In addition to mixing, Fuser offers fine control over tempo, key, rising, volume and eventually the playing of instruments. Whilst the features are not all unlocked when you start Fuser, by the end of the campaign I had enough features at my disposal to make me forget I was playing a game and instead, at least in my mind, I was a masterful DJ.
Rise To The Top
The 38-mission campaign in Fuser offers hours of Dj-ing opportunities from across six different campaign stages. I started at the bottom and found myself rising to the headline act of the biggest festival. In each of the six stages, a different promoter helped guide me through the different aspects Fuser has on offer. These moments were a fine balance between a guided tutorial whilst also giving me free rein over the sound of my mix. I was still learning about new features up until the final stage when I could truly unleash my DJ skills.
The six areas offer voice-acted promotors and stages, each with their unique flair. The campaign of Fuser operates on a request basis. The crowd will request certain songs, genres or decades with the promotors asking for more nuanced elements such as the BPM or specific key. If the crowd and promotion are pleased with the mix, then the next level will be unlocked but if the mix loses momentum then the music comes to a crashing halt. There is a no-fail option enabled if you’d prefer a non-competitive experience and whilst I played the majority of the campaign with the threat of failure, the no-fail option did let me loosen up a little; allowing me to be more inventive in the mix.
Time Is Of The Essence
Mixing in Fuser is incredibly fun but how does it work? A timeline on the bottom of the screen shows the downbeats of the music. New records must be dropped onto the mix at a downbeat or a pickup. Pickup’s are moments when two tracks seamlessly integrate. Perfectly dropping the vocals from Billie Eilish’s Bad guy onto the percussion of Rick Astley’s “Never gonna give you up” during the pickup of the timeline effortlessly combines the sounds. The sheer seamlessness of how songs combine is an incredible feat that developer Harmonix should be proud of.
Each song features four elements which include vocals, percussions, keys and strings where each of these can be played. It means that up to four songs can be playing at once, but I’d recommend just sticking with two at max. Although the option for a crazy mashup is available, I often found myself with just a singular song playing at perhaps a different key or tempo than usual. DJ-ing is not just about seeing how many songs work together, it’s about producing music that sounds good and Fuser certainly offers the chance to do that.
Take It Online
Aside from the campaign, a freestyle and battle mode is on offer. Freestyle can be played both alone and online. This mode is what it says on the tin, giving full control over the music, instruments, and effects. In pre-release, I found myself matched up with some of the developers of the game and it was truly impressive listening to the music they were creating.
The freestyle mode does come with an element of competition with players competing to create the best sound but the true competitiveness comes when playing the battle mode. In this mode, two players are pit together with a health meter. Each of the disc slots sends damage to and fro each other based on when the record is dropped and fulfilment of requests. This mode does take some getting used to. The focus on points meant that I often found myself switching elements in and out for the sake of points and not for the quality of music I was producing.
There also appears to be weekly quests where users can vote on each other’s tracks, similar to Dreams on PS4. I’m excited about what Fuser will offer when it opens up to everyone in a couple of days.
Concerningly, the store was not working on my pre-release copy of the game and hopefully whatever the store offers will rely on an in-game currency which is used to unlock new songs in the game and not real-life microtransactions. (Come back when the full game releases on the 10th to see what the store offers).
Overall, the multiplayer modes are fun and when the game is available publicly, I’m sure an abundance of creativity will be on offer.
Unfortunately, Fuser on consoles loses some of the preciseness that I imagine exists in the PC version. There were sometimes moments when the promoter would ask me to change the key or tempo of the mix without much notice. Because the controls utilise the joystick, I often struggled to hit the exact number required and failed that request. Additionally, there’s no automatic sorting of how the song list appears which means that fulfilling requests becomes a case of frantically searching through the (albeit easily navigable) menus in search of the songs.
I can understand why the developers may have wanted users to arrange the order in a way that an actual DJ would, but a sorting option would have been appreciated. These issues are by no means ground-breaking but perhaps a “snapping” option to different tempos or a sorting option would help alleviate these issues.
Up To Scratch?
Fuser excels in being both a music creation software and a game by perfectly combining the two.
When I tested the game on the living room TV, there was not an untapping foot in sight. With a wealth of recognisable hits, fine-tuned control and toe-tapping fun, Fuser is excellent and the portability of the switch version allows the hosting of a party to take place anywhere.