Fuser Is the ‘Next Big Step Forward in Music Games’


For a lot of folks, independent developer Harmonix isn’t just a music game studio; it’s the music game studio. With the utmost respect to Sony’s highly-successful weaponisation of karaoke with the SingStar series – or indeed the admirable legacy of one much-loved, two-dimensional rapping dog – Harmonix’s work laying the foundation for Guitar Hero and the subsequent creation of Rock Band really make it the big wheel down at the cracker factory.Guitar Hero and Rock Band – each billion-dollar brands that left a permanent stamp on the decade between 2000 and 2009 with high sales and even higher revenue thanks to the added expense of their bespoke instrument controllers – really defined music games for an entire generation of players.

Now the Boston-based studio is looking to do it again.“I’m super excited about Fuser,” says Harmonix veteran Daniel Sussman. “It really does feel like the next big step forward in music games.”

“And if you’re a fan of the company you will be able to trace what you see back through all of our work. There are rhythm action elements; certainly this is a performance simulation on par with Rock Band or the early Guitar Hero games. There’s a lot that you will pull forward from Dance Central and the pop sensibility of those games, and then the music mixing mechanic which was first pioneered in Fantasia: Music Evolved and really developed as part of DropMix.”

Certainly this is a performance simulation on par with Rock Band or the early Guitar Hero games

An understanding of 2017’s DropMix will take you a long way to understanding what’s going on in Fuser. At their core, both DropMix and Fuser are about blending music together in fun, satisfying, and imaginative ways, and there’s arguably not a world of difference between placing physical NFC-enabled cards down on a physical mixing peripheral to dropping in-game samples onto a series of on-screen platters. The two games even use similar design language and colours to illustrate the individual parts of tracks available to use.

But there’s a new level of complexity to Fuser that seems to make it a lot more than just DropMix 2.0. Personally, the enjoyment I gleaned from DropMix was more about tossing down cards with little regard for timing and letting the software make it sound as good as possible. The results weren’t always especially elegant but you may be surprised at how many scenarios the iconic ‘ooh wah ah ah ah!’ from Down with the Sickness sounds great in (the answer is every scenario).Fuser is a bit different. While the music mixing tech ticking away under its hood seems largely similar from an outsider’s perspective, Fuser definitely seeks more care and craftsmanship from its players.

“I love DropMix in so many ways, and yet it always bothered me that the gameplay was so decoupled from the musical creative part of it,” says Sussman. “And that was intentional but, in hindsight, to me that feels like a miss.”

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