Somewhere between my first and fiftieth Smash Mouth and Carly Rae Jepsen mashup, the comedic flair that initially attracted me to Fuser faded into the background and was replaced with a genuine desire to make a song that actually sounded good. While Fuser isn’t much of a “game,” it is a pretty powerful and accessible piece of software that’s capable of generating some genuine ear-worms of songs in an easy and accessible way.
Just like previous Harmonix titles such as the Rock Band series or the early Guitar Hero games, the fun doesn’t necessarily stem from making your way through the career modes, but rather in the simple act of playing the game is the real draw. Just like those games, Fuser has a story mode that grants you different unlocks as you progress, but in reality it’s more of a tutorial than anything else. During the course of a set you’ll get some requests for certain instruments and genres as well as some objectives that usually revolve around you utilizing a technique you just learned.
The idea is that you’re an amateur DJ who like anyone at this event, is just allowed to hop on stage and mix it up at what must be the weirdest music festival in the universe. There’s no logic to it, but there doesn’t really need to be considering that no one is actually coming to a music game for its story. The career is split into several sets of levels spread across a few different uniquely themed stages where you’ll be taught something new. The first stage is about the basics of timing, whereas later on you’re taught about soloing certain tracks, queuing up new sets, and adjusting tempos.
It’s incredibly helpful and provides you with a decent amount of cosmetic and song unlocks depending how well you score in a level, but Fuser isn’t really good about giving you feedback which isn’t great if you’re trying to improve. I rarely understood why I got three stars on a level versus four or five, because the game only seems to show you what you did right without offering anything in the way of criticism. It wouldn’t be such a bummer if it wasn’t for the fact that songs and song currency are usually unlocked when you reach a five star score.
But once you complete a few stages and learn some of the advanced techniques for mixing, I’d suggest you just leap into the freeplay mode and never look back. That’s what I’ve done, and I’m truly having a great time just mixing up songs for half hour sets at a time. Without the pressure of having to keep the crowd happy or worrying about the various objectives that might pop up during a set, freeplay is the actual mode you’ll be spending the majority of your time with .
You start any session by picking your crate of 30 songs to bring on stage with you. There are a lot of songs from different genres and eras, all of which have been broken into up to four tracks: vocals, bass, drums and guitar. Sometimes the guitar and bass will be synths, pianos or horns, but the idea is that you have four pieces of a song to play with. That means you can use Smash Mouth’s “All Star” vocals, with A-ha’s “Take on me” drums, and some other stuff that shouldn’t ever be in the same song, and make them be in the same song.
Fuser will force these songs to work together under any circumstance, even if that means ruining the very concept of music for you. This will manifest in the form of incredibly sad sounding pop songs that are in a minor key and played really slowly, or the exact opposite where “Linger” by The Cranberries suddenly becomes a high octane pop song. It’s wild and shouldn’t be capable of producing anything other than ear poison, but it all manages to hold together while producing decent sounding music
It probably took me a total of ten minutes in freeplay to create something I actually would listen to in my car. That realization was both comforting and horrifying because none of this should be working, but yet I still find myself nodding my head along to the music I create. I truly have loved my time with Fuser but I do fear that it might not have the legs that Rock Band did. It seems like a fun thing to show your friends that might ultimately not have the longest lasting appeal, but for a time it can be a genuinely good time.
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