I don’t know if I expected
American Gladiators Fall Guys to be as successful as it ended up being, but there is no denying it spoke to a certain section of gamers. Even if it didn’t change the face of gaming like we’re currently seeing with roguelikes, a few titles have thrown their hat into the ring. A surprising one was Granblue, with another being Headbangers: Rhythm Royale. With the similarities being immediately obvious to that, is it a must for fans, or is it an experience better left forgotten?
Headbangers: Rhythm Royale starts by making the wise choice of forgoing narrative. There isn’t a reason these pigeons are playing these mini-games, why this world exists, or even a tutorial on how to play. Instead, players are given a brief explanation before each round before getting to experience each game.
Hope You Understand it Fast
Keeping with the rhythm theme, each game is much closer to something out of Mario Party, or possibly even Warioware. A good example of what I mean is the game Guilty. The premise is incredibly simple.
There are a variety of rounds where you’ll see multiple pigeons in a line up dressed in a Traditional Silk, Scottish traditional, Medieval, Punk, or a wide variety of other costumes. You’ll hear a song play and you need to correctly identify which character relates to the song. These are usually pretty straightforward.
Bagpipes indicates Scottish traditional, you’ll hear that unmistakable fantasy melody for Medieval, to the aggressive beat of Punk. None of these were hard as a first time listener, though the trick isn’t being right as much as being fast.
You’ll eventually recognize something was meant to be a holiday theme, though placement comes down to how quickly and accurate you are. It makes things exciting, though I’d be lying if I said Headbangers: Rhythm Royale felt accessible to newcomers.
I don’t mean the games themselves are hard, though there are a few that cross that line, as much as the community is far more experienced. In this respect we’re in a rather unique position to evaluate the experience as a newcomer coming in at the newly released second season, instead of trying our luck against those with a similar experience level.
Going back to Guilty, I recorded gameplay of me playing just to see how good you need to be to excel. I took about 1.5 seconds to guess the first character and was 18 out of 30. I took around 3 seconds on the next round earning 16 out of 30. On round three I again took 3 seconds for an unfortunate 20 out of 30. This might not sound terrible in regard to performance, but come round four of eight I was already rank 20, which was the bare minimum to required to pass.
Where this point gets easier to understand on the fourth round. I took around 5 seconds to guess Medieval, something that was a bit more of a guess. At this point I was 21, and had just done poor enough to now be at risk of elimination. When it comes to these things, especially later rounds that are a bit harder to guess, a massive edge is given to experienced players.
Where I felt this concept the most was Faster Then Sound. Now, on paper, I love this event. Instead of playing against everyone, you’re given a single opponent. Both players will see an image, such as a donkey, followed by having to listen to a song for that sound effect. The first person who hears it and shoots first wins.
But, similar to the previous game, those unfamiliar with the rules, or in some cases sound, have a massive disadvantage. Once I figured out what I was doing wrong I started to put up a fight, even if I knew it was too late and I had already lost.
Some of the other games rely even more on experience. Super Striker was a simple hit the ball at the right time game that I excelled at initially. Once penalties started to obstruct my view, and it relied more on knowing the timing/being experienced with the rhythm I went from a respectable seven to 13 for an unfortunate loss.
No Penalties versus Full Penalty
Even if I am rather critical of some of these games, I don’t actually think they’re bad. The player base, at least from what I saw, was not impossible to defeat. It’s just some people clearly better understood the game. With more practice, plus legitimate rhythm skill, you can excel. Someone like my girlfriend had a completely different result largely due to her vast experience in the genre.
If anything I want to highlight what the potential experience could be. Odds are you’ll lose your first couple of games, followed by having a slight edge. Simply knowing what the sounds are, understanding the timing, or certain mechanics will result in a better overall experience.
Gameplay aside, Headbangers: Rhythm Royale has a lot in terms of unlockables. Challenges are a surprisingly fun way to unlock distinct costumes. Each one has a series of tasks, ranging from time invested, to ability performed. This approach allows players to feel like they’re making progress, even if success is determined by one or more hard tasks.
Costumes are also surprisingly affordable. I estimate I could purchase the most expensive cosmetic currently available in about 6 hours. Less if you include season pass bonuses, perform better, or are lucky. Many other costumes are far more affordable as well, like the cheapest can probably be unlocked in 90 minutes.
Headbangers: Rhythm Royale Review Verdict
Headbangers: Rhythm Royale: I think Headbangers: Rhythm Royale has a lot of potential. The games are fun, with a fair amount of accessibility. I think joining now will put you at a disadvantage, especially in later rounds when the games get harder, but if you're willing to put in the time you'll be able to rock out with the best of them. Add in some fun challenges, cross-play, plus plenty of unlockables and you have an experience that might not appeal to everyone, but will rock for some. – Grant
Editor’s Note: Headbangers: Rhythm Royale was reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.