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Harmonix’s Fuser is a music creation tool disguised as a game

Harmonix has developed many games about recreating and performing music. This time around, the Guitar Hero and Dance Central studio wants players to get creative. Fuser is all about creating mashup remixes out of popular songs, either in a campaign, freestyle mode or multiplayer.

After preview events earlier this year, this is the first extended hands-on with Fuser, giving me a full four days with 31 songs, two campaign missions and the freestyle mode.

You manage four channels – each song is divided into drums, a bassline, and a melody instrument such as synths or strings and vocals. Each of these categories is mapped to a fixed button, so you always press the right-hand button for the vocal track, the left hand one for drums and so on. As intuitive as the controls are, Fuser is immediately a lot. Unlike previous Harmonix games, which have you focus on your instrument by relegating the crowd and your avatar to the background, there’s a whole music festival virtually standing between you and your table. Initially, I had a good giggle at the idea that attendees at a huge festival like that would dare to shout “I want country!”, but it’s just one of the ways in which gameplay doesn’t really fit the rest of Fuser’s ideas. The skill it asks of you lies in dividing your attention between crowd requests, in-game tasks and, oh yeah – making actual music.
Fuser is such a departure for Harmonix not only because it ditches the dexterity challenge of classic rhythm gaming, but because the developer is actively trying to reach players who either aren’t interested in music gaming as a test of skill, or are unable or unwilling to invest in peripherals by basing everything around your controller only.

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