When it comes to music-based games, there’s few that rival developer Harmonix and their pedigree in the industry. From Amplitude on PS2, to early Guitar Hero, and of course the immensely popular Rock Band and Dance Central, they’re well known for their quality in the genre. Of course they’ve had many other titles along the way over the last two decades, and when it comes to the evolution of music games, Harmonix (despite its studio flutterings) have remained a rock star. Now, players have a chance to dive into the role of pro DJ and wow the crowd and community with their latest game entitled Fuser. Will this game be able to keep the same lasting beat as previous fan favorites?
Fuser lands on the Nintendo Switch as a game that boasts players taking on the role of a professional DJ to make huge hits across the game’s single player venues, and then level up their skills to impress fellow community players as well. Unlike past DJ-centric games like DJ Hero, there’s no peripherals to be had here, and everything will be played directly via the Joy-Con controllers.
The vibe is immediately set upon starting the game up with vibrant colors assaulting your eyeballs and catchy music instantly capturing your attention. There’s a narrative/tutorial voice over that, although maybe a bit overly kitschy, does the trick in keeping the mood in check. There’s no denying that Harmonix has taken some cues from their Dance Central titles and infused them into Fuser.
The most appropriate mode to jump into right away are the Campaign venues. The game does offer several other modes, and we’ll touch on them in a bit, but they are more focused on multiplayer and community aspects. The campaign spreads itself across 6 venue locations, each with multiple sets of shows, so I found it to be a very hearty progression. Now admittedly when I first saw the trailer for the game, I had thought to myself “How will this be skill based, as it just looks like you’re utilizing a DJ tool?”. The game quickly dispelled any doubts I had.
Gameplay was taught to me in a very linear, but rewarding progression. My first show was just learning that I could drop 4 beats, and each of those beats could be a synth type (think vocals, drums, string, etc.). What immediately sets Fuser apart from a traditional DJ mixer is that you’re in fact mixing licensed music. This means if you want the vocals from Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” combined with the percussion of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”, you certainly can, and thus you are born a noob DJ! After a few more shows, the game’s mechanics and full feature set really opened up, and it became a lot clearer on how skill comes into play.
The complexity to which you can mix starts to unfold a few sets in, and soon you’ll be challenged with dropping beats at specific tempo hits. Furthermore, you’ll gain the ability to utilize the same type of synth repeatedly, stop tracks, and a few more awesome tricks that allow for some sweet beats to be made by nearly anyone. As you engage with your audience, you’ll learn they also have needs that need to be met, including song requests, instrument requests, and more. Ensuring you meet their requirements means putting on a killer show and ultimately getting a higher rating. What I really loved about Fuser though is that even just mashing music together still sounds pretty good, and although I’m far from a Pro DJ in any respect of my life, I cranked up the volume on my soundbar, and had the whole family dancing in the living room in no time. It felt empowering in the same way playing Rock Band did, and engaging in a musical manner not typical to my life’s skillsets.
Now, while the track library is quite robust, as one would expect, you’ll still encounter microtransactions for new songs. Still, the game does offer in-game points for doing well that’ll also allow you to unlock new tracks, but if you’re wanting an expedited experience, you’ll need to shell out some cash at roughly $2 a song.
What is definitely cool though is once you’ve got a few songs in your library, and some campaign progression underway, you’ll be able to start customizing your whole set. You get to pick the selection of songs before your set, and then also customize lighting effects, screen backgrounds, and other visual effects that happen on stage. It’s a nice touch to make your shows feel a bit more personalized. This also introduces a second micro-currency that is effectively style points that can be used to unlock some new stage items as described before, but also can be used to purchase some wild gear to customize your DJ character as well. I won’t lie, it didn’t take me long to have a pretty sweet DJ decked out in strapped pants, a gas mask, and rocking some sort of hipster-scarf shirt combo in a pretty funky pattern. It’s certainly an aesthetic ode to what we’ve seen in music genre games since inception.
If you find yourself tiring of the campaign at any time, Fuser also offers a few more primary game modes. The first being an open ended ‘Freestyle’ mode, where really you just become a DJ at will if you’re looking to just play around, try out different tracks, and improve your own skills. There’re no requests, no scoring, and optionally, this is a fun mode to have on when you’ve got some friends over that want to just goof around and keep some background tunes going.
There’s also a Co-op Freestyle mode too, which seemingly would be more robust as it offers private shows, watching community active freestyle shows, or even joining a freestyle show with up to 3 other players. Regrettably during my entire time reviewing the game, there were no active sessions available, and so I never was able to partake in this.
The last mode is Fuser Battles, which is a hyper competitive 1v1 DJ mix-off ranked mode. You’ll battle for dominance and doing so takes some skills to match the crowd’s needs. If you win two rounds, you’ll win the battle and rank up in your leaderboard tracker, which if you consistently do well enough, you’ll also unlock some cool cosmetic rewards too. Unfortunately, again for me, there were just no ranked matches to be had, and I longingly awaited an opponent. I’m not sure if this is a result of server location to me, or the Nintendo platform, or a combination of both, but I really had wanted to give this mode some of my time, but it just never panned out.
Still, even with only the Campaign truly available for me, there’s a lot of content to be played, and as history shows, picking up some music tracks now before they become delisted due to licensing is key to longevity as well (oh what I’d do to have bought more Guitar Hero tracks long ago since I still play it). Fuser has a lot going for it in this music games genre, and blasting some sweet remixes in the house on a given Friday night is standalone fun too. With no peripherals to worry about breaking down over time, there’s a level of replayability that should last as long as desired here as well. Fuser brings the beat and now I feel at least a little cooler in life about mastering some music tracks myself.
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 7.5/107.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Taking on the role of a DJ, you’ll be mixing licensed music tracks from plenty of genres to please your venue’s crowds, and also your pals at home. There’s a real skillset to master once you get going in the game, and it’s a lot of fun hearing your creations come to life. Sadly, none of the game’s multiplayer modes worked at all for me on the Nintendo platform, which is a big miss given the full $60 price point, and therefore forced me to play in solo venues only. If dreaming of being a DJ is your thing, you can fake it to make it here with Fuser and feel great as the crowd’s cheer.
Alex has been actively gaming since the release of the Nintendo. Turning passion into profession, he’s spent just over a decade in game development, and is currently the Creative Director at a studio.