Harmonix is the Boston-based studio responsible for the “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” series, which in the 2000s filled living rooms (and later attics) with plastic instruments that, through complex rhythmic tests, let rock musicians get into the groove.
Harmonix collaborated with the Beatles’ estate to transfer the back catalog of the band into the interactive format at the height of the genre’s success.
Market overindulgence in plastic video game peripherals, however, has created a crisis. Fuser is the attempt of Harmonix to revive the music game that once made it popular, placing the player in the role of a DJ charged with mixing and matching different hits to satisfy a virtual audience – a far more imaginative effort than the “Simon-says” style of previous rhythm games, where the job was simply to click buttons to the music in time. Here, the components of various songs – usually drums, bass, melody and vocals – can be weaved together as you see fit, producing new harmonic blends. The ability to combine Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name’s vocals with Dolly Parton’s Jolene’s acoustic guitar part, The Clash’s Rock the Casbah’s bassline, and Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me’s keyboard stabs is maybe unexpected and incredibly pleasant.
It’s a lot to learn and master: each song has a colored dot timeline showing the best points to trigger chorus vocals, fade tracks in and out, and even improvise over the backing track, for example, your own rhythms and instrumental melodies. But it’s not only extremely fun to take on the role of a stadium-filling DJ once you’ve mastered these resources, but it’s also theoretically feasible to put on a crowd-pleasing show at a real party – an ability that will have to wait for more communal times for now, though.