“Something to bang your head against”
My love for rhythm games is no secret, so when I first heard of this game’s title and only saw the key art, I was immediately sold on wanting to try it. What I didn’t know about Headbangers: Rhythm Royale at the time, was that it was a Battle Royale type of game. Yes, I’m dumb, it was right there in the title all along.
Now what does that mean? I guess the most well-known example these days would be Fall Guys, where you play against a number of other online players and each round gets harder with fewer people left. For a rhythm game, this meant I had to become better than other players to even stand a chance at seeing some of these minigames, and while I love this genre, I also tend to be terrible at it.
It also means that you can only play Headbangers when you have an active Xbox Live/Xbox Game Pass Core (or better) subscription and as luck would have it, I had just let my sub run out the month before getting this review code. To add insult to injury, the game was even available on Xbox Game Pass at the time. The reason why I bring this up will also become clear later on in the review, so get to scrolling down to find out!
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series S | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on X!
Things I liked!
- Pigeons | I wouldn’t have thought so in advance, but pigeons are actually the perfectly meme-able animal to use in such a funny game. You’ll get to dress them up and you can twirl their head while waiting for a queue to fill up. I’ve quickly learned to love their design, despite their one obvious character flaw: they don’t have a chin and the beard item looks more like a scarf because of it. The game looks great and has the perfect aesthetic for the light-hearted comedic approach they are going for.
- Rhythm games | There are a bunch of different minigames in Headbangers and each of them is quite easy to grasp, especially because you get a short tutorial at the start of the level (which gets annoying after a few hours) and you can control them all with only your face buttons. My favourites are the side-scrolling retrogame where you have to press buttons in time and the classical music played on a scoresheet with opera singers you can control. The easiest out of the bunch is one where you have to pick the right pigeon out of a lineup, connecting the way they look to the way the music sounds (eg: bagpipes and a pigeon wearing a kilt)
- Ways to get back in the game | If you’re on a roll in the main minigame, you’ll likely want to stay focused on it, but there are two other elements that can even entertain players who have fallen behind. You’ll see bonuses flying around that you can grab with the Right Trigger and they can do things like double your score, reveal the answer to a quiz or memory-type minigame or even handicap the other players with reduced visibility or other “attacks”. The other one requires you to spin your head around with the analog sticks to fill a bonus round bar, which won’t contribute to your score or help you beat the other players, but you can earn some sweet, sweet breadcrumbs with them.
Neither good nor bad
- Unlocking new cosmetics | The game doesn’t force a battle pass on you and you can easily unlock new cosmetics simply by playing a few levels. You can buy these with earned breadcrumbs or unlock entire outfits by earning experience. They look funny, but there isn’t quite enough variation early on and you’ll notice that most other players have the same outfits.
- Music | You’d expect there to be good music in a rhythm game, but it’s mostly license-free/public-domain classical tunes or simple sound effects. They do the job, but it’ll hardly get a tune stuck in your head. For people who’ve played the games, Nintendo’s Rhythm Heaven is a close comparison.
Things I disliked!
- Online only | You can’t test against the AI or play the game solo, which means that you’ll have to get lucky with the random minigames and you’ll only see the harder ones when you succeed in making it into the finals, where you’ll fail the first few times because the game being played is new to you. You also need to pay for an online subscription on consoles to even be able to play the game, which has always seemed unfair to me as PC players can access online play for free.
- Tons of connection issues | So, you’ve paid for the online subscription on consoles, you should be all good to go, right? Well, no. Sadly, I’ve experienced a ton of connection issues with Headbangers specifically. Whenever I tried to play the game, I had a 4 out of 5 chance of being met with connection errors and not being allowed to enter the game. I noticed after a while that it seemed to have been dependent on the time of day, but in a full week of testing, I kept running into this issue and it was highly demotivating to boot it up in the first place.
To make matters worse, in the one game where I was finally getting close to winning the whole thing, I was kicked out because of yet another network error.
- Too many loading screens | Now, we’ve become spoiled in recent years, so it’s not like you’ll spend ages waiting for a minigame to load, but because of the online aspect and matchmaking + the tutorial being shown before every game, you’ll spend a considerable amount of time just waiting around until you get to participate in a game again. I didn’t use to mind as a kid, but it seems like I’ve grown so impatient recently that I grab my phone to kill some time at the shortest glimpse at a loading screen.
- Longevity | Like many of these minigame collections, they are fun while you’re still discovering new ways to play, but playing the same things over and over again in short bursts can become tiresome quickly. After about 30 games played in total (of which I consistently made it into the finals, but never won) I feel like I’ve seen all there is to see and the grindy achievement list is not enough to keep me playing.
How long did I play the review before publishing? 5 hours
How long to beat the story? No story. A single game is ~10-15 minutes
How many Achievements did I earn before publishing? 6 out of 26
How long to achieve 1000G | ~50 hours or more? It can be pretty grindy getting enough breadcrumbs.
You’ll love this game if you like these | Rhythm Heaven, Fall Guys,
62/100 ⭐| Headbangers: Rhythm Royale is the perfect Xbox Game Pass game as it’s not for everyone, but still worth checking out. It’s full of fun and quirky minigames and if you have a good sense of rhythm, you can finally show the world who’s the boss of the pigeon coop.
Sadly, the online issues plaguing the game at the moment make it hard to recommend as I’ve personally walked away from it with a ton of frustrations.
Robby lives and breathes video games. When he’s not playing them, he’s talking about them on social media or convincing other people to pick up a controller themselves. He’s online so often, he could practically list the internet as his legal domicile. Belgian games-industry know-it-all.