Fuser: A Video Game Review

Fuser is a 2020 release from Harmonix, the game studio that brought us one of my all-time favorites, Rock Band.  Like Rock Band, Fuser allows us to imagine ourselves as world-class musicians.  However, instead of tapping away at expensive controllers shaped like instruments, in Fuser you are a DJ, creating mixes using only your creativity and the hardware you already have.  

The game comes with a library of songs with which to create your remixes.  Each song is divided into four tracks: drums, bass, treble, and vocals, which the player can layer as they like.  It’s easy to get started because the game matches up the tracks’ rhythm and tempo.  The DJ only has to choose when to drop tracks and when to eject them…at least at first.  As Fuser progresses, more mechanics are introduced.  The game becomes more complex and challenging as the player struggles to keep track of timed requests from the venue and audience, while keeping the changes on the rhythm.  But that complexity comes with control: as you master the tools it becomes easier to express your creativity through your mixes.  

Revolutionary mechanics aren’t the only thing that makes Fuser stand out.  The character creation options are truly exceptional.  This stands in stark contrast to Rock Band 4 which was criticized for its lack of options, particularly body-types.  While progress and unlocks in Fuser are account-based, each account holder may make a number of “looks,” or unique DJ characters.  The customization menu for looks includes a variety of different body types, faces, and hairstyles that are –notably– completely decoupled from gender.  Your character can have a curvy feminine body with masculine features and a beard.  Gender-fluid players can swap “looks” to match their gender of the moment.  This makes it one of the most trans-inclusive games I, personally, have played with regard to character creation. 

I would die for DJ Faint Shadow (their culinary opinions not withstanding)

That inclusion doesn’t end at the look-creation screen: Faint Shadow, one of the six NPC DJs who guide you through the game, is an androgynous person with they/them pronouns.  Perhaps the most memorable option in the Fuser look creator is the inclusion of three vitiligo skin tones.  The rich array of choices allow players who have never seen themselves represented in their player-characters before to finally do so.  

My personal favorite part of look creation is the addition of “personality” and “signature move.”  These allow you to chose your character’s idle animations (personality) as well as a special animation that plays at the beginning of each set.  Longtime fans will recognize some of the many signature move animations from another Harmonix favorite: Dance Central.  These customized animations bring the player-characters to life on the stage.  

And those stages are stunning.  Each host DJ has their own unique, over-the-top stage that reflects both their personality and home city, complete with massive sculptures, projector screens, light shows, and even pyrotechnics.  These are customizable as well: you can create and save ‘stage kits’ with particular lights and effects.  The stage you perform on can reflect your personality, the set you’re playing, or both.  

Fuser is a visually stunning game, saturated with brilliant magentas, yellows, and blues.  That color palate is present throughout the game, in the stages, light shows, costumes, and the sunset sky itself.  Both gameplay and cutscenes are breathtaking making this game a treat for the eyes as well as the ears. 

If you have the choice of playing Fuser on console or PC, I recommend PC.  The controls are complicated and require a great deal of coordination; I found them much easier to master with a keyboard and mouse.  Because of the motor control needed to play Fuser, it may not be the game for you if you have any motor disabilities or hand pain.  

Fuser is highly engaging while being relaxing and even meditative.  It is both a form of escapism and a creative outlet.  While Fuser may be difficult for players with physical difficulties, it’s an excellent choice for gamers with mental health issues.  I, personally, find it very helpful when I’m feeling down or processing something difficult.  If the mechanics are too challenging you can just relax, put on some headphones, and jam in freestyle mode.

Have you tried Fuser?  If so, what did you think? Let us know in the comments!


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