Developed by Glee Cheese and published by Team17, Headbangers: Rhythm Royale is a party royale game featuring penguins and lots of tunes. Taking a different approach than most party royale titles, Headbangers: Rhythm Royale is a music-based party game which means that all of the mini games are based around music, and you will be banging your head through them. Party royale games really took off with the success of Fall Guys and since then, we are seeing more and more party royale games being released but among all of the releases, it is good to see that Team17 and Glee Cheese decided to mix things up by going in a new direction. This is our review of the PC Steam release of Headbangers: Rhythm Royale in which we hit some balls in rhythm and guess instrument sounds.
Booting into Headbangers: Rhythm Royale will give you a notice that this game is best played with a pair of headphones and a controller. This makes sense because Headbangers: Rhythm Royale is a rhythm party royale game and you will need to hear the sounds perfectly in order to win. Jumping into the main game mode, which is sadly the only game mode, will see you jumping into a lobby of 29 other penguins, and you will duke it out with them in a four-round run to become the Master Headbanger. At the end of each round, certain players who fail to perform are eliminated until the final, fourth round where the last of the few players bang it out for a final time before a winner is crowned.
Naturally, the rounds are randomized each time, and you will have to figure out what needs to be done in each game during your early runs. Although there is a tutorial during the loading screen each time, certain mini games are just difficult to get used to at first and it will take some time before you are competitive at them. This is what sets Headbangers: Rhythm Royale apart from Fall Guys or any other competitive party royale title because certain mini games are fairly complex, and you have to get good at them before you can actually win and move past them to other rounds. It does not mean that the levels are not fun and are too complex that they completely ruin the gameplay. It is still a blast to play once you have a thorough understanding of everything.
There are a total of 23 different mini games in Headbangers: Rhythm Royale and you will find them as different from each other as possible. This is one of the strongest points of Headbangers: Rhythm Royale because none of the mini games are anything like the other. In comparison, most of the mini games in Fall Guys are basically you trying to avoid obstacles and trying to reach an end goal. The mini games here are diverse and this is why you have to pay special attention to them and understand how each of them works in order to win. Some of the mini games have too much going on in them but then again, it all depends on how good you are at understanding things that are quickly changing and moving around on the screen.
Some of the really cool ones are Guess It!, Fitness, Guilty, and Yes Commander among others. In Guess It! you must listen to the instrument playing in the background and quickly match it with the correct instrument and in Guilty, you have to listen to a music sample and then quickly select which character made that music from a bunch of character options on the screen. Similarly, games like Garden Party require you to reproduce short music samples by pressing on-screen buttons and Fitness changes it up a bit as you must match your neck movements with the coach. Each of these mini games is based on timing and the first players to nail the tasks move on to the next round.
Some mini games have instant eliminations while others give you a fair chance to come back into the game with eliminations reserved at the end of the round. After spending a few hours in the game, you can easily understand each of the games but since there are a total of 23 different games, you will continue to experience a new one for a long time. Each run is based on four rounds and at the end, a single winner is crowned the Master Headbanger. If you are eliminated earlier, you still win some Crumbs based on your position and final-round performance.
Crumbs is the in-game currency and apart from this, there is no premium currency in the game so far. This means that the in-game store also accepts only crumbs from where you can purchase new costumes and costume parts along with neck sounds and taunts for your penguin. After purchasing, you can customize your penguin according to your own liking. Apart from full costumes, you also have separate costume pieces, and you can mix and match them to have a customized look based on your liking. Apart from the costumes, you can also change the neck sounds which are essentially the singing sounds that your penguin makes as you are rotating its head around. Finally, you have different taunts as well which can be performed to tease other players and since this game is aged accordingly, these taunts are pretty family-friendly. For the most hardcore fans, there is a dedicated Challenge menu where the best costumes are locked behind different challenges and milestones.
In each of the games, you can also collect powerups which could be a buff or a debuff, but you have to be quick on your fingers to grab it before any other player grabs it. Headbangers: Rhythm Royale has been out for nearly 20 days however the player base for the game appears to be a little low as most of the lobbies are filled with bots. During my last few matches before finalizing this review, nearly all of the games had a lot of bots instead of real players. On one hand, this is fine because this will ensure that the game stays alive for a long time and does not get stuck in matchmaking due to the unavailability of a full party but on the other hand, this ensures that each game is a full game player. This is not a bad thing by any chance, and I am happy to see full lobbies in the game despite half of them being bots because it gives you a full-game experience.
The cool aesthetics and cute visual art of Headbangers: Rhythm Royale however fails to keep you glued to the screen for a long time. Some of the mini games in the game tend to become tedious and start to feel like a chore and no matter how hard you try, you cannot just enjoy them. Failing in these mini games then becomes a major turn-off point because you are already frustrated, and failure just reinforces your frustration even more. Mini games in Fall Guys are tough as well but as you are failing in them, you are constantly laughing but that is not the case here. Most of the time when you fail, you will be frustrated because your mind is really focused on how you solve the mini puzzle along with your eyes, ears, and hands. This is not good for casual gaming because it ends up being a complex, competitive game, and games like Headbangers: Rhythm Royale have to be fun even if you fail them. This is where the fun sound effects, cute penguin outfits, and colorful aesthetics fail to impress.
While Headbangers: Rhythm Royale certainly is a cute little game that will keep you occupied for a few hours, it just fails to offer anything long term and after spending a few hours in the game, you sort of get bored with it and leave it. It fails to keep you entertained for a long time and that is worrisome for a game like Headbangers: Rhythm Royale because games like these are all about long-term commitment by the players. It lacks the charm and replayability that is found in similar titles like Fall Guys and that might push it a little to the side in the long run. Fall Guys is still the king in this genre but Headbangers: Rhythm Royale is still a decent title if you are looking for a break and it will certainly keep you engaged for a few hours before the repetitiveness and frustration fall in and you stop enjoying it. Highly recommended if you love online competitive games and want more games that are good for a quick laugh.
Final Score: 7.5/10