Home Reviews 3/5 Review Headbangers Rhythm Royale Review

Headbangers Rhythm Royale Review


Whatever we might think about Headbangers Rhythm Royale, there is a pure joy in waggling that pigeon. Nobody can take that away from us. With a jostle of the analogue stick, we can rotate our pigeon’s head around with an amusing “baaaay-gum!” and it l never fails to crack a smile. In the lobby rooms of  Headbangers Rhythm Royale, you see people who have clearly been playing for days and they’re still waggling those pigeons.

So, here we are with the latest battle royale. To give Headbangers Rhythm Royale credit, it’s far from conventional. Exhibit One: the pigeons. Exhibit Two is this is a rhythm-based party game, a Jackbox Music Pack, played with twenty-nine other players. That’s nothing that any of us have seen before. 

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There’s no doubt, Headbangers Rhythm Royale can bring pure joy

Fall Guys fans will feel immediately at home. After a quick audio calibration, it’s all about customising your plasticine pigeon, whacking on an Afro, some slatted glasses and a 70’s jumpsuit. You can purchase gear too, using in-game ‘crumb’ currency (generously, there are no microtransactions here), should you not like what you’ve unlocked. But outside of access to the game’s free Battle Pass, all that remains is jumping into a game.

We’ll get it out of the way now: it’s a shame, no? Headbangers Rhythm Royale is effectively a compendium of minigames, more Mario Party than Fortnite. But there’s no way of playing them locally, no way of testing the games out beforehand. We know why: Headbangers Rhythm Royale is the essence of random, and wants everyone on a level playing field of WTF. But did it have to go so far as denying local play? We’d wiggle the head ‘no’.

Still, you can play online with mates, and cross-play no less, so there’s some collaboration to be had. Then you’re straight into the fray: four rounds of ever-decreasing players, from 30 pigeons to 20, 10 and then 5 for the final. If you want to be a winner-winner pigeon dinner, then you’ll have to make the cut across all four elimination games.

The games are chosen at random from twenty-three possibilities. What connects them all is that they make use of audio in some form. Headphones are a must. Guess It! has you listening to an audio track, and you’ve got to isolate the instruments that are playing. Piano Mezzo Forte converts musical notation into various symbols, and you then have to re-convert them into button presses. The imagination that’s gone into finding rhythm action minigames that you’ve never experienced before is commendable. 

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One of our favs!

Our personal favourites are Space Race and Faster Than Sound. Space Race feels more Fall Guys than anything else in the collection. You can see everyone locked in a central bubble within a vinyl record. The record revolves round, and you’ve got to hit every note on time, which teleports you to the next record. There are four LPs in total, and there’s a thrill from being one of the few people ‘poofing’ over to the next record, having hit every note. It manages to make Guitar Hero into a race, which is cracking.

Faster Than Sound eschews the everyone-against-everyone feel and opts for musical duels instead. You all line up against a partner, where you’re shown an image: a phone, bell or horse, maybe. Then it’s quickfire. A cacophony of sounds play. Can you press the A button before your opponent, just as that image’s associated sound plays? We can’t tell you how many times we mistook a horse sound for a pig. What a loser.

But as is the way with minigame collections, there are duffers among the good ones. We let out a little moan whenever ‘Fitness’ appears. This has a fitness instructor waggling his pigeon head to the music, and you have to replicate those moves. We hate it for a myriad of reasons. One, we’re terrible at it. We’ll ignore that one. Two, we swear there’s something wrong with it. Often, our character won’t lunge in the direction we chose and just stands there; yet, when we get our score, it does, in fact, register our movement. Three, it’s yet another memory-based game in this collection, and there’s just too darned many of them.

Headbangers Rhythm Royale’s biggest problem, in our eyes, is that while it has fantastic imagination in how it dresses them, there really are only two, maybe three different kinds of game here. There are memory games, where you have to replicate something that went before; there are reflex games, where you have to react faster than your opponents; and there are rhythm action games, which, if we’re being honest, are reflex games with a backing track. 

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We may have sighed at this one…

We also kept seeing the same games. There’s a reason for that: while there are twenty-three games, only some of them suit thirty players, while others suit a more limited five players. If you’re failing at the first or second hurdle regularly, then you’re going to cross paths with the same games frequently. Twenty-three games is undoubtedly a lot, and they’re all polished, but the fates conspire to make games duplicate and runs a little repetitive.

Which raises the question of whether Headbangers Rhythm Royale really suits the battle royale format. Games like Fall Guys, PUBG and Apex Legends work because every game is different. Not only are there multitudes of approaches when winning, your opponents have a multitude of strategies too. But there are only right and wrong answers to a lot of the games here. It’s binary, and that doesn’t leave much room for varied experiences. 

Headbangers Rhythm Royale tries to address this with a little success. Item boxes float across the screen, and they can be grabbed by anyone fast enough. There are global effects that distort sounds or apply TV static to the screen, or they might contain a personal multiplier, nudging you over the elimination line in terms of score. But they can equally be penalties. What makes them only partially successful is that you have to be paying attention to be the one out of thirty to grab it. More often than not, you will be slower than someone else. Focusing on them leads to mistakes. It’s easy to come to the conclusion that they’re best ignored.

What this all amounts to is an experience that very quickly pushed us into boredom. Sure, we loved the pigeon waggling, we adored some of the minigame themes, and there was an adrenaline rush as we played a game that we hadn’t encountered before. We even got to the final on a few occasions. 

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Unfortunately, fatigue sets in

But from the fifth Royale onwards, we felt fatigue increasingly setting in. There are categories of game here, and they often feel very similar to each other. Games repeat more often than we like, and that made the bad ones – or, at least, the ones we disliked or were terrible at – disappoint more when they appear.

With a couch co-op mode, we would have had acres more fun. These games are so silly that seeing friends is a must, while picking and choosing the games would have allowed us to focus the fun on the good stuff. 

By choosing to be a battle royale, we can’t help but think that Headbangers Rhythm Royale attached some blinkers. It could have been a Jackbox rival with an audio flavour. Waggling our pigeon was undoubtedly fun (and juvenile), but like the rest of the game, the laughs were short-lived.

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headbangers-rhythm-royale-review<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Watch the pigeons jiggle!</li> <li>Some hugely inventive games here</li> <li>Characters are adorable</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>We’re not convinced that it fits a Royale game</li> <li>Gets boring quickly</li> <li>Lacks couch play</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Team17</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC <li>Release date and price - 31 October 2023 | £19.99</li> </ul>
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