Headbangers: Rhythm Royale – Review
Follow Genre: Party game, rhythm game, battle royale
Developer: Glee-Cheese Studio
Publisher: Team17
Platform: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox X|S, Switch
Tested on: PC

Headbangers: Rhythm Royale – Review

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Good: No microtransactions
Bad: Very light on content
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Last month saw the arrival of season two of Glee-Cheese Studio’s Headbangers: Rhythm Royale, the latest in a long line of one-versus-many battle royale party games. It’s not easy to judge how these games will evolve based on their early days: nobody would have predicted we’d eventually see Peter Griffin take on Ariana Grande in Fortnite when that game originally launched. Still, the base version of Headbangers definitely shows potential. With its rhythm-based minigames, Headbangers gives the impression that it’s trying to do something different compared to the aforementioned Fortnite or even Fall Guys, which seems to be its closest competitor in terms of atmosphere. Can Headbangers stand out from the crowd or is it eliminated by other battle royale games?


There is no story to be found here, but this shouldn’t be a surprise given that Headbangers is a party game. Players take on the roles of cartoon pigeons and compete with one another in a series of rhythm games. That’s it.


The colorful and cartoonish atmosphere that Headbangers’ visuals bring to the table plays a huge part in the game’s appeal. The pigeons look adorable, and with plenty of cosmetic items available, you can really make your personal avian avatar match your personality. Aesthetically, the game fits right in with similar titles in the genre, the most obvious one being Fall Guys. The simplistic cartoon visuals aren’t too taxing on your hardware either, so the game’s performance is smooth as butter. This is important for a game that can only be played online and centers around rhythm, as lag is the last thing you’d want.


Given that Headbangers is a rhythm game first and foremost, a lot of care was put into making the audioscape not just enjoyable to listen to but also into making sure it flows nicely with the gameplay. Upon booting up Headbangers, your first in-game task is to quickly calibrate your audio, ensuring a smooth experience. It’s recommended that you wear headphones. These do make a difference in some of the minigames as you’ll want to listen as closely as possible to some of the tunes. Fortunately, the music that is present is catchy and matches the frantic pace of the game. There is no real voice acting present here, although the pigeons make gibberish noises not unlike those of Ubisoft’s Rabbids.


In theory, Headbangers sounds like the perfect storm: you’ve got an accessible rhythm game that takes Fall Guys’ online battle royale style approach and combines this with Mario Party-esque minigame gameplay. Over the course of four quick rounds, 30 pigeons step up, and with each round, those that perform the worst are eliminated until one pigeon can claim victory. The minigames are randomly selected from a pool of 23 available ones, and which ones you get depends on how many players are left on the board. It’s a tried and true concept and at its height, Headbangers truly shines. However, there are some fundamental issues here that prevent the game from reaching its full potential, in its current state at least. Fortunately, this is also a game that adopts the seasonal approach, so Headbangers definitely has room to grow into a battle royale behemoth as more minigames and modes are added. We should note that although the game is in its second season as of December, the only seasonal additions were cosmetic. The caveat with those cosmetic-only additions is that Headbangers feels like it still needs to build up a player base that sticks with it for longer than the hour or two it takes before you’ve seen everything. Hopefully, from season three onwards, content updates will be more substantial.

Although the 23 available minigames are fun once you actually get to grips with them, you’ll need to prepare yourself to fail quite a few times. Headbangers doesn’t feature any modes beyond its online battle royale format yet, so there is no way to actually practice the individual games. The very brief explanations that show up while the minigames are loading are your only help, but even with these, it can be unclear what you’re supposed to do. Granted, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand these minigames but in a fast-paced rhythm game, it’s not exactly fun to get your butt kicked the first few times simply because you haven’t gotten to grips with the mechanics. The minigames are typically skill-based and rely on quick reflexes. On our first few tries, we were beaten by our opponents before we even realized what happened. Not every game relies on your sense of rhythm: sometimes you’ll need to be the first to pick out a specific instrument, for example. While these were easier to succeed in, more experienced players were still invariably faster.

Of course, Headbangers doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither should players. The overall atmosphere of the game is that it is silly and chaotic, in the best way possible. As you progress through the game, things only become more frantic, with bonus rounds, grabbable items that can completely flip a game around, and offensive moves that allow you to block opponents’ view of the game, for example. Even the games themselves are silly by design. You’ll be bopping your head as you follow the movements of a fitness instructor, for example, or match the mouth movements of an opera singer. Granted, there could have been more variety when it comes to the mini-game mechanics, but that’s a bit of a double-edged sword: by keeping things simple, players will get to grips with Headbangers much quicker. Even if some of the included games simply feel like re-skinned versions of other ones, they’re all fun, fast, and perhaps most importantly, chaotic.

It’s that frantic chaos that highlights the absence of an offline multiplayer mode. Headbangers is still a party game first and foremost, and during our time with the game, we missed seeing and hearing the reactions of other players. Granted, the nature of the mini-games means that every player needs their own screen, so we understand why Glee-Cheese Studio went with the current approach, at least for the first two seasons. A brand new game mode has been confirmed for 2024, although details are yet to be revealed. That said, we do feel that the Switch version would benefit from local offline multiplayer the most, with each player using their own device to play, even if it is a scaled-down version that strays away from the battle royale format and presents the mini-games in a different way. The absence of a single-player mode is even harder to justify, as Headbangers has AI opponents available to fill any remaining slots if not enough players are online.

One thing we can absolutely laud Headbangers for is its pricing structure. Rather than stick to the free-to-play model that is the norm for battle royale-style games like this, Headbangers asks you to pay €19.99 up front, but in exchange, there are no microtransactions in sight. Sure, there is the obligatory season pass as well as outfits and taunts for your pigeon, but these are all purchased with in-game currency instead of having to fork out real cash. Timed quests also add limited-time outfits, which is a good way to keep players hooked. Of course, it needs to be successful enough with its fanbase so that Glee-Cheese Studio has reasons to add content over time. With plenty of other games targeting the same audience, time will tell if Headbangers will become a mainstay or if it’s destined to be a flash in the pan.


We’re a bit on the fence about Headbangers, at least in its current state. The core concept is fun, and we are enthusiastic about the microtransaction-free approach, but right now, Headbangers is a bit too barebones for our liking. There isn’t enough mini-game variety and the game would really benefit from more ways to play, including single-player and practice modes. In its current state, we do feel like Headbangers is overpriced for the amount of content, but we can’t exactly tell you to just wait, as not having an active player base means there is no incentive to expand on what’s here already. If the game interests you, give it a shot but keep in mind that Headbangers still needs time and room to grow.

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