Headbangers: Rhythm Royale had a premise that promised a lot of potential. Many players (up to 30) are pitted against each other in a gauntlet of musically themed Wario Ware-style minigames and the last pigeon standing wins.
There were so many ways this could have gone right… yet due to utterly baffling design choices, Headbangers: Rhythm Royale ultimately becomes an alienating and crushingly disappointing experience. The entire game fumbles itself in the most bone-headed way imaginable. How was this possible? Find out in this Headbangers: Rhythm Royale review!
Headbangers: Rhythm Royale
Developer: Glee-Cheese Studio
Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: October 31, 2023
Price: $19.99 USD
The target audience of Headbangers: Rhythm Royale is zombified, YouTube-addicted children between the ages of five and ten, but anybody can play it. The gameplay is straightforward to understand and doesn’t use all the buttons on a controller.
The minigames are all tied to catchy pieces of original music and are a mix of timing, rhythm, and sometimes accuracy. Other times there will be some lateral thinking in some puzzle-based minigames, but overall they are polished and thoughtfully designed.
The visuals are clean and rely on easy-on-the-eyes soft pastel hues, creating a gentle and inviting atmosphere. The round and bouncy designs of everything, from the pigeons themselves to the backgrounds and props, add a playful and whimsical touch. Even the animations have a playful sense of weight and rubbery quality, which perfectly suits the stretchy and phallic nature of these pigeons.
Where does all of this go wrong if the foundation is sturdy? Headbangers: Rhythm Royale is not just a frantic party game collection of absurdist minigames; it is a battle royale mode only. This wouldn’t be a problem if the battle royale was just one of many modes included in the package, but battle royale is all that this game has to offer.
The target demographic of drooling, YouTube-addicted children won’t enjoy Headbangers: Rhythm Royale because the battle royale format is too competitive and unforgiving. They have short attention spans, low frustration tolerances, and a seemingly endless appetite for new and exciting content.
As a result, games that are too complex, challenging, or repetitive are likely to be quickly abandoned. Additionally, kids don’t have the patience to learn the mechanics of all the different minigames on the fly and will be swiftly disqualified.
Worse yet, the wait times for a lobby to fill up takes too long. There is a mechanism in place that fills empty slots with bots, but that also takes too long to activate. This leaves kids anxious in their retries and sometimes leads to them fiddling with their controllers and foolishly pressing the back buttons, which also leads to them having to restart the matchmaking process all over again.
Having a battle royale mode is suitable for older, more competitive kids, or for streamers who rely on these kinds of games for their branding. It is a shame that the ones who suffer from this oversight are little kids who should be the primary player base.
Why there is no local multiplayer mode or some kind of practice mode for the minigames is utterly baffling. Compounded with this gross oversight is the inclusion of predatory microtransactions for aggressively lame cosmetics. Don’t leave your kids alone playing Headbangers: Rhythm Royale, because they may rack up a huge credit card bill if you look away.
Video games should be something a parent can trust to entertain their kids. It shouldn’t be a backdoor into a bank account. As if this wasn’t bad enough, there is a battle pass system implemented that transforms playing into work. Want that silly washing machine costume? Better grind for days to earn it.
Battle passes are a popular monetization scheme in many video games, but they can be especially harmful to kids. They typically require players to complete a series of challenges to earn rewards, such as cosmetics, in-game currency, and other items. These challenges can be very time-consuming and difficult, and demand gamers to spend more money on the game to complete them.
This is huge a problem for kids, who may not have the patience or resources to complete all of the challenges in a battle pass. They may also be more likely to be tempted to spend money on the game to get the rewards they want. It creates an unneeded sense of obligation, like another job which leads to feeling stressed and anxious about playing the game.
This is already a $20 game, yet it has been designed with a free-to-play model. For its price, there is nowhere near enough content or modes to justify the value of Headbangers: Rhythm Royale. The system in its current state is predatory and exploitative.
This game has the potential to become an enjoyable video game for kids, with substantial updates such as adding offline modes for a more casual experience and dropping the battle pass scam, like how Chocobo Racing GP did less than a year after it came out. As it stands now, it is merely streamer bait.
Headbangers: Rhythm Royale was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code provided by Team17. Additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy can be found here. Headbangers: Rhythm Royale is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.