FUSE Review


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Posted by Byron on May 6, 2016

No, you didn't click on the wrong review. While Fuse starts out sounding like Space Alert's less-evil twin, it carves out its own niche in the real-time cooperative subgenre. More accessible than Space Alert and thinkier than Escape!, it balances elements from both—and has the advantage of being considerably cheaper than either of those frontrunners in the real-time game.

Designed by Kane Klenko, who has dabbled in real-time games before but is most famous for his recent "Flash Point of the Caribbean" game, Dead Men Tell No Tales, keenly understands the advantages of adding a timer to a cooperative game. It's difficult to balance a co-op to be challenging without relying on dumb luck. Fuse's 10-minute timer introduces a skill element reminiscent of a video game: your success depends on things like reaction speed, dexterity, and efficient coordination with your teammates. Improving your performance feels rewarding in the same way as getting a high score in Gradius or beating a boss in Dark Souls. The inclusion of a soundtrack (in this case, an optional companion app) also adds a video game-like visceral element of sensory immersion, and the 10-minute time limit offers a guarantee few games can match, letting you schedule your game night with certainty. Unlike many other offerings in this genre, Fuse has a small price tag to match its game length, making it even more appealing as a warm-up or cool-down game.

In Fuse, you have 10 minutes to defuse over 20 bombs that have been planted onboard your spaceship by enemy agents. As every armchair bomb-defusal expert knows, you can't just tear out the wires and move on; each bomb has its own disarming procedure that must be followed precisely to avoid explosive consequences. Here, each bomb is a card, and each card has a recipe depicting which kinds of dice must be placed for successful defusal. Some call for a specific color of die, some require a specific number, and some requirements change depending on the dice that have been placed previously. These bombs cover a range of complexities: the simplest might just ask you to match the value or color of the neighboring die, while more difficult cards present a simple equation, like "[ ]+[ ]+[ ]=15," in which your three dice can be any color or value but must sum to exactly 15. Most cards can be filled up in any order, but the most devious ones require players to stack the dice in order to form towers and pyramids—naturally, if these structures topple, the entire process must start again.

As the timer ticks down, you'll take turns drawing dice out of the included bag, rolling them, and dividing them up between the players. At most player counts, you'll draw 1 die per player and each player takes exactly 1, so you shouldn't go grabbing the first die you see—if any players are unable to grab a die that round, not only are the unused dice lost, but they may take previously placed dice with them, undoing progress for everyone. Fuse cards, mixed in with the bombs, have a similar effect.

As simple as it sounds, it's a great setup for a real-time game. You're always tempted to make decisions as quickly as possible to beat the clock, but the restrictions of the bomb cards usually require the players to hold back and carefully deliberate which die goes where so as to minimize damage. There's even some strategy to deciding which dice to lose when you draw a fuse or get stuck with unusable dice. The 2-player and solo variants work well, too, and there are a huge range of difficulty modifiers you can apply. The companion app can also record your high scores, which was a great touch, and the flashing lights and sirens do an admirable job of increasing the sense of urgency. There are two soundtrack options, Basic Voice and Personality Voice (which is more like "person who thinks she has a personality" voice). The latter draws from a pool of random voice clips, but its attempts at humor are embarassingly awkward...sort of like my reviews.

Thanks to its low price point and simple-but-brainy ruleset, Fuse earns its place in the real-time co-op subgenre.