If there’s one thing I miss the most from before COVID-19, it’s festivals. Listening to loud music in a field with your mates as the sun comes down is practically a rite of passage for British youths, so the concept of FUSER was one that instantly excited me. Mixing my own music, making my own festivals and wearing tie-dye everything all from the safety of my living room? Sign me up.
Although FUSER could never quite replace the joys of enjoying music with thousands of other like-minded people, the magic that it creates is instead something all it’s own. This music-mixer is the real deal.
If my brief anecdotal introduction didn’t clue you in, FUSER is all about mixing music under the background of hosting your own music festival. As your own created character you must rise up through six different stages, learn the tricks of the trade and become a master of DJing.
The main way you’ll experience FUSER is through it’s single player campaign. This mode takes you through the six stages, whilst also teaching you new tricks every step of the way. Each music track in FUSER consists of four different parts, and you can individually select each section of up to four tracks to put down on the table in real-time. You can take the vocals from Blinding Lights, the guitar from Jolene, the bass from Killing In The Name Of and the Percussion from Bad Guy to create an awesome sounding combo, and with a track list of over 100 songs there’s incredible room for experimentation.
That’s the basics of it anyway. As you get further into the game, you’ll learn how to incorporate your own instruments, solos and tempos into the mix to really make your own unique style. As you play a set, the game and the crowd will randomly challenge you to use certain elements for more points, which means that you can’t just stick with one sound that works and you need to constantly be changing things around. You also need to be doing on beat, so you can’t just be chucking songs on willy-nilly, at least not in the campaign anyway. The options here really do feel fantastic, and only get overwhelming when you’re in some of the harder parts of the campaign.
FUSER’s real magic comes from the moments where a random choice of songs creates a genuinely awesome beat, or when you modify the tempo just enough to make everything sound great. Although the six hour campaign is a great driving force to teach you what you need to know, some of my favourite moments came from messing around in the Freestyle mode and seeing what sounded good over trying to score the most points. The campaign’s focus on scoring points by keeping things fresh and not staying with the same sound means that it occasionally got a bit repetitive once you figured out how to keep the crowd happy and the game ran out of tricks to show you.
When that happens though, you’ve got the option of messing around on your own, or going up against other players online. From my limited experience with it, I found it to be a lot of fun and where the skill wall really goes up as real players tend to know what they’re doing. Similarly to other music games, I personally didn’t get much mileage out of playing with others, but the option is there with its own progression systems for those who really want to dive in.
As a music game, it’s also important to note here that the selection of songs at launch is fantastic. You’ve got some modern picks like Don’t Let Me Down by the Chainsmokers, all the way to meme-y classics like All Star by Smash Mouth. There’s a lot of potential for future songs too, similarly to how games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero used to offer post-launch content. Rest assured there’s going to be more than a few songs you’ll want to mess around with, and maybe even a few you’ll be adding to your playlist.
Although FUSER’s music-mixing system is a fantastic piece of tech that offers hours of fun, there are some elements of the experience that let it down a little bit. For starters, the rate at which you earn experience points and currency for songs and outfits is ridiculously slow. By the end of the campaign I still had plenty of songs to unlock and not many ways to do so. It doesn’t help that replaying the campaign missions for more points limits what tools you can use and makes it so that you’re still in a tutorial-like mission, which makes replaying them a chore. These two issues are ones that could very well see a fix in the future though,
For all of it’s wonderful systems and options to mix, FUSER can occasionally wear a little bit thin. Like I said before, once you’ve learnt how to please the crowd in the campaign there’s little more to it than that, and you do eventually yearn for a few more songs or tricks to mess around with. I was also a little bit let down by the festival-hosting parts of the game which are little more than a backdrop to the music-mixing and aren’t that developed. Customising your character is fun enough with a variety of outfits, but the stages are set between six different themes with only the option to change lights, crowd effects and a few little bits here and there. Don’t go thinking you’ll be crafting stages or doing any graphic design here. Not that that’s the focus or anything, but the limited options and slow progression made me mostly ignore everything but the music mixing.
I’m happy to report that besides some infrequent glitching and slowdown, FUSER works very well on the Switch. The prospect of carrying around a music-making tool is actually something that serves this version of the game really well. It’s not the smoothest or prettiest experience by any means but, considering how many systems it has at play, it works and that’s what’s important.
As I was playing FUSER, it struck me that the best way of describing it is as “Christmas Present: The Game”. It’s the perfect game to show when you’ve got friends over or just want to mess around with it, but if you don’t really latch onto the music mixing or appreciate its depth that might be all it is to you. For everyone else, there’s a fantastically deep musical experience here that might be worth busting the headphones out for.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by NCSoft