Skip to main content

Wax Heads remixes punk rock with cosy vibes to brilliant effect

Tuned to perfection.

The key art for Wax Heads, showing a woman holding a vinyl record in her hand, with the Eurogamer Wishlisted logo in the bottom right corner.
Image credit: Eurogamer/Patattie Games

Cosy and punk don't really go together. Cosy is restrained, all nice and warm and snug. Whereas punk is noisy and destructive - angry tunes with aggressive attitudes and anti-establishment ideals. A cosy video game wants to tuck you up nice and tight with a warm drink and tell you everything's going to be okay, but punk games tear that blanket off, pour your drink down the drain, and drag you to a window to look at the darker parts of the world, or what the world might become. Punk wants to make you feel uncomfortable. So when developer Patattie Games calls Wax Heads 'cosy-punk', you might raise an eyebrow.

Take one look at it, though, and you'll see its 'punk' side isn't leaning into the moodier, political meaning of the word. With its comic-book art style and vinyl record shop setting, Wax Heads only takes the stylings and sounds of 'punk', but it definitely fulfils its 'cosy' promise with its retail-sim-themed puzzles.

After a brief introduction chronicles how the mega-popular Becoming Violet band started and broke up in the 1980s, you start Wax Head's Steam Next Fest demo as a new, nameless employee decades later at Repeater Records, a struggling record shop. It's owned by Morgan, the old leading lady of Becoming Violet, and she explains your job as the new hire is to listen to the customers' (often confusing) descriptions of what record they want to buy, before then searching the shop for it. Pick a good suggestion and you get more points, but offer a really bad one and you can lose points. It's not clear what the points are for in the demo, but it seems likely that they might affect the fate of the record shop in the full release.

It's a nice loop that presents a different flavour of puzzle to crack with each new customer, with the solutions getting progressively harder. At first, you're just looking for records that have 'New!' on the front for excited fans, or giving stingy customers the cheapest tracks you can find.

But you'll soon have to study people harder to figure out what they're not telling you. A nervous man covered in piercings might not want that Heavy Metal track you think he would be into if you look at the flyer sticking out of his back pocket, for example, while a teenager might not sound like she's ready for Sister's latest experimental songs just yet - so why not give her their tamer debut album instead? One record took me as long to find as all the rest in the demo combined, because the customer was stuck in a mascot costume that muffled his voice and I only had three confusing clues from his daughter to work with.

A customer talks about the record they want to buy in Wax Heads
A customer describes a record they're looking for in Wax Heads
Image credit: Eurogamer/Patattie Games

The variety of solutions on offer help prevent Wax Heads from feeling stale when you're playing for extended periods, but it also manages to keep your interest with its genuinely engaging crop of minigames. One asks you to create a flyer for your co-workers gig with some typically cartoony stickers, and I ended up sinking a worrying amount of time into a piece of digital paper I might never see again. It was a nice surprise, then, to see my amateurish work displayed on the record shop's window for all my picky customers to see for the rest of the demo. The best of the demo's minigames, though, is hands down the Diggy Doggo arcade machine you can boot up at any time. You have to avoid old Zelda-like traps while navigating through a top-down dungeon to collect items to survive, then eventually escape. I love a good game within a game, and Diggy Doggo is both big enough to entertain, but small enough not to distract from the main game.

An employee talks about one of the Zelda-like mini-games in Wax Heads.
A poster for a band performance, with lots of stickers available to decorate it, in Wax Heads
The back of a record sleeve for the band Bad Toes in Wax Heads
Image credit: Eurogamer/Patattie Games

These minigames help add a lot of whimsy to Wax Heads' already charming design, which includes a Tamagotchi to take care of, emojis to plaster over receipts, and minimalist, hand-drawn vinyl records to study - complete with parody or funny band names and song titles. My favourite of these is the album Bad Toes, by the band Band Toes, with cover art that features an appropriately bad toe, lil' angry face and all. It contains such hits as 'Socks Aren't Enuf', 'Footsie', and 'This Little Piggy Burned Down the Market'.

All this comes together to create an easygoing, slice-of-life, cosy time. So even if Wax Heads' only real punk elements are the tunes to queue up on your phone as you flick through punk albums at Repeater Records, I'm a fan. Do you think Wax Heads would sign my copy of Bad Toes?

Read this next