Headbangers: Rhythm Royale throws the beat amongst the pigeons

Like Fall Guys, this head-bobbing rhythm game challenges a group of 30 players to multiple rounds of im-peck-able mini-games.

Glee Cheese

Every now and then, a game comes along where I deeply wonder where the concept for it came from. For Headbangers: Rhythm Royale, I imagine that a developer from French indie studio Glee-Cheese who is a fan of Fall Guys was at a park somewhere listening to a street performer and watched pigeons bobbing their heads to the beat of the song. Or it might have been inspired by a wonderfully strange fever dream. Either way, Headbangers is a vibrant, offbeat multiplayer rhythm game that has a lot of funk and panache.

A musical battle royale

Headbangers Battle Royale Piano Mezzo Forte
The Piano Mezzo Forte mini-game has you press one of three buttons at the right time on the track.

Source: Glee Cheese

From the moment I started my session with the game at a private Team17 media event, I grooved to its cool party vibes. The simple menu has a clean, casual look with an upbeat soundtrack and fun animations in the background of the pigeon characters who have ridiculously elongated necks. They pretty much look like fluffed-up rubber chicken mascots who can mumble a sort of comically-stretched English that sounds like it comes from a Worms game.

In a similar framework to Fall Guys, the main mode groups you into a flock of 30 players who must survive a series of four rounds, with each round featuring one of 23 mini-games and then eliminating the poorest-performing bunch at the end. The first round starts with 30 pigeons, the second with 20, the third with 10, and the last round with the final 5. Finishing at the top of the heap will earn you the title of Master Headbanger, though placing well overall will still reward you with breadcrumbs. You can spend these breadcrumbs to unlock cosmetics for your pigeon avatar from the shop, like sideburns, top hats, or a T-rex costume.

Birds of a feather vibe together

Headbangers Battle Royale Fitness Mini-Game
The mini-game Fitness has you match the coach's head-bobbing instructions.

Source: Glee Cheese

If you’ve played Nintendo’s Rhythm Heaven or some of the rhythm-based mini-games in the Mario Party series, the ones in Headbangers will feel familiar. I was able to earn first place in most of the mini-games I tried on my first attempt, though the server was understandably populated by bots. Some of the mini-games, like Piano Mezzo Forte, that require precise button presses to the beat are fairly standard fare for the rhythm genre.

But a good number of min-games are all about feel and having a strong internal clock for rhythm and tempo, so many players have a fair shot at doing well, especially after a bit of practice. For instance, one mini-game called The Perfect Shot has you take a picture of a dolphin as it spins upwards from the ocean. The dolphin will jump at different speeds and the music will even go silent at times, so you’ll need good timing as well as a bit of luck to get it right. Another mini-game named Fitness has you follow a coach by pressing and holding the D-pad in different directions and for various lengths.

Not to be pigeon-holed

Headbangers Battle Royale Finale Mini-Game
In the finale round, I had to play "Oui, Votre Majesté" where I had to follow the king's commands.

Source: Glee Cheese

Meanwhile, a box with wings will flutter across the screen at times. This carries an item that any player can capture, though it can knock your timing off if you’re not careful. The item can then be deployed for a random effect like extra bonus points, self-inflicted penalties, or group attacks on the remaining players. The selection of mini-games is a bit limited at 23, so these items thankfully mix things up with some risk and reward.

Headbangers: Rhythm Royale will release on October 31, 2023 for PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC via Steam and Windows Store. The game will come with a free battle pass as well as a premium option that will unlock more cosmetics. It will also feature crossplay across all platforms, which should ensure that multiplayer servers will be healthy for a long time post-launch.

This preview is based on a build provided by the publisher at a private media event.

Contributing Editor

Once upon a time, Nick's parents confiscated his Super Nintendo because he was "playing it too much." He has secretly sworn revenge ever since. Nick is now a freelance writer for various video game sites. Powered by iced green tea, he typically plays RPGs of all kinds like Shin Megami Tensei, Elder Scrolls, and Fallout. In his spare time, he follows the latest season of Critical Role.

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