I’m grooving nicely to my current Fuser mix. I’ve got Carly Rae Jepsen’s upbeat drums from Call Me Maybe blended with the deep synths of LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem and the cool guitar riffs from Don’t Let Me Down by The Chainsmokers. It’s going pretty well, and the crowd is into it, but I’ve got one space left for vocals. I have one song in mind, but I’m hesitating. Do I dare use the vocals from Smash Mouth’s All-Star? The mischievous streak in me needs to know what it would sound like and before I think of the devastating consequences, I’ve already clicked on it. The disc drops, and to my astonishment, it’s not terrible!
Fuser’s music mixing does a great job of inviting you to blend songs to your heart’s content. It’s essentially a DJ simulation where you mash up music on the go, taking samples from different songs and playing them together. If you’re familiar with Harmonix’s previous game DropMix, then you’ll feel right at home with Fuser.
There are four turntables at the bottom of the screen, each one mapped to the A, S, D, and F keys. One space is for drums, one for bass or synth, a third for lead instruments, and the last one is for vocals. Each song from Fuser’s 100-song playlist has also been split into these same four categories, letting you choose which elements of each song you want to sample, like a giant musical buffet where Coldplay’s Clocks is the warm salad.
Switching disks on the fly leaves you with feeling on the brink of your music being harmonic euphoria and audio vomit, but Fuser’s musical technology cleverly blends the most opposing songs together, as proven with my ungodly Smash Mouth experiment. The technology underlying the song mixing is outright impressive. Fuser morphs each song you choose to effortlessly match the other, making sure each sample has the same tempo and musical key. This was always something that fascinated me when playing DropMix, so it’s great to see it implemented in Fuser.
The demo I’m playing has two campaign levels and a freestyle mode, so I launch into the first gig that shows me the ropes. Following the same set up as the Guitar Hero games, these gigs test your musical mixing skills against a crowd. Depending on how well the concert went, you’ll be scored out of five stars at the end of your performance. To earn points, you’ll need to complete timed mini-goals throughout your set, changing up the music to keep the song sounding fresh.
You also need to keep the audience happy by taking the requests they shout out. A crowd gauge indicates how the audience is feeling and if it drops too much they’ll start booing you. It’s also important to drop disks in time with the rhythm of songs, represented by a metronome above your turntables. Taking song recommendations and playing new disks on the downbeat keeps them happy and bopping along. It sounds a little intense, but Fuser’s interface makes it easy to keep up with what’s going on. Concerts further into the campaign will ask for more skill-based play, but you will have had a host of gigs under your belt by then.
Accompanying Fuser’s campaigns is a freestyle mode where I spent most of my time in the demo. It’s an endless mode with no point-scoring or mini-goals, you just get to jam out as much as you like. It’s a much more relaxed setting where you can mess around and the crowd magically seems to love everything you play. This is where you have the space to create some interesting mixes and take your time learning more of Fuser’s intricate features.
You can manually change the musical key and tempo of your mix, and there’s a feature that lets you queue up several disks and quickly switch to them mid-mix. There are even options that select the ideal key and tempo for what you’re currently playing, or completely remix everything in an embellishing twist. A loop creator lets you produce instrumental samples to place into your mix. It takes some getting used to but lets you add your own unique flourish to mixes.
Fuser has made it an exciting time for fans of rhythm action games. The robust mixing technology that Harmonix has built makes experimenting with music totally effortless. I love the feeling of exhilaration when everything just works together, but also the joy when I’ve created an unholy mess.
I can’t wait to see what more musically inclined players will make out of Fuser. There’s no release date yet, but Harmonix says that more information about Fuser, including its multiplayer capabilities, will be revealed after the summer.