Battle Royale, but make it WarioWare—this silly demo from Steam's Next Fest lets you rap battle your foes to death as a pigeon (in sunglasses)

Two pidgeons face off in a rap battle to the death.
(Image credit: Glee-Cheese Studio)

Headbangers: Rhythm Royale is flying from the roost later this month, and it's so dumb and stupid I kind of love it. To boil down the concept: imagine Fall Guys, but with rhythm-based minigames in the style of Warioware. You can play a demo of it right now as part of Steam's Next Fest until October 16.

Developed by Glee-Cheese Studio and published by Team17, Headbangers puts you in the talons of a pigeon, facing up against 29 other players (or, right now, a handful of players and bots—it's still in a humble demo phase after all) to see who can keep tempo.

What's neat is how much mileage Headbangers is already getting out of its concept. I played a few rounds where I chirped along at a garden party, played DDR on a spinning vinyl, did an instant-death finale on a retro games console, and–perhaps my favourite—went head-to-head against a single rival in a rap battle, parappa style.

I'm a touch rhythm and memorisation-challenged, but honestly, the format of a battle royale takes the heat off considerably (even if my blood pressure rises when the rounds eventually speed up). It's not like I was snagging crowns in Fall Guys much, anyway.

What keeps things fresh are power ups. They're boxes that fly onto the screen, requiring you to stop what you're doing and hit a trigger to snag them. These things are first come, first serve, and while you might think that means they're hard to get, it turns out shifting focus while trying to memorise xylophone notes is really hard.

A line of pigeons from Headbangers: Rhythm Royale stand above a xylophone.

(Image credit: Glee-Cheese Studio / Team 17)

I like how eliminations are handled differently from minigame to minigame, too—finales are often instant death, but the earlier rounds give you a comfy three hearts or use an overall scoring system. Some games like the rap battle, are direct head-to-heads, and it's very fun to see my score creep up over my opponent as I snuff out their dreams in stylish shades.

I'm also a big fan of the dumb pidgeon avatars. Shuffling your analogue stick causes them to coo like there's a tiny minion trying to escape their gullet, while lifting the stick makes them snap back into position like a spring. For a blessing, you can't hear other players wailing, though I sort of wish there was an option to turn that on. Just for the hell experience of 30 cartoon nightmares sounding off at once.

Headbangers: Rhythm Royale is pretty limited right now, but it's instantly charming, and a nice bit of brain bleach after I spent much of my last week cracking open a soulslike. It's planned to fully release October 31.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.