Review – Killer Queen Black

Killer Queen Black, by Liquid Bit, LLC, is listed as “an intense multiplayer action/strategy platformer for up to eight players.” For me, it is also a throwback to what got me into Post-Atari console gaming. Sitting on my living room floor playing Pac-Man, Pitfall and Adventure was all well and good, but it really hit a new level once I was able to bring the then-current arcade hits back home with me. Games like Double Dragon and then Street Fighter were constant quarter pulls. Having friends over and co-op’ing through Contra or fighting each other in Mortal Kombat.

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A dive and a miss!

This is exactly what Killer Queen Black is: a console edition of the hit multiplayer arcade platformer, Killer Queen. One person takes on the role of the queen while three others (four, in the arcades) play the drone and soldier roles in some best-of-5, 4-v-4 eSport platforming action. While the queen can fly around and play full on offensive, it is the drones that need to choose another path on how best to serve their teammates. They can either become a soldier to help fight against the other team or they can gather resources and work on strategy.

At its core, Killer Queen Black is a harken back to old school cabinet arcades. The six total battlefields feature static 2D platforming. The platform-based fighting and 16-bit graphics are immediately recognizable while introducing additional mechanics. The Queen and the Soldiers can fly around, but the Workers will need to jump and drop and hustle their way around the board, doing what they can to help and avoid being killed. When you die, you simply respawn at your starting hive. Queens are used to take possession of upgrade units where a worker can make himself into a soldier which adds strategy to the Queen player as well. When the Queen dies, she respawns at her hive from one of three birthing sacks. Once all three are used and the Queen dies, the match ends.

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.. But choose wisely.

Stylistically, yes, Killer Queen Black is a modern take on Joust, but Liquid Bit throws in strategy elements to the mix. Strategy is incorporated by having multiple paths to victory. Both the Economic and the Snail path are accomplished by the drones. They either grab berries to store inside their hive, filling it resulting in the victory, or they get on a slow-moving snail, making themselves a very easy target, and slowly try and race it to their teams finish line.

The third path to victory will be the most common. The Military path is achieved by killing the opponent’s Queen four times. The Queen is, by far, the most powerful player on the board. Although a drone can upgrade himself to become a soldier, he is limited to attacking just left and right. The queen, on the other hand, can attack both left and right as well as dive down on unsuspecting enemies. Two queens attacking each other simultaneously is not an unfamiliar action and just as with Joust, usually the person slightly above the other is the one who is victorious.

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You have chosen… wisely.

There are also three major ways to play Killer Queen Black. Local co-op allows for up to 4 players but will support 8 players if you have a second Switch to link up. Online allows you to search for join an online match in either ranked or unranked mode. You can choose if you prefer to be the Queen, a drone or random. The third way to play is, of course, solo. And although it is still challenging and fun, the game is meant to be played with your friends. This is, at its heart, a cabinet arcade game where laughing and trash talking are requirements. On-line, preferably with a friend or two, is where Killer Queen Black shines the brightest. Whether in ranked, unranked or even private mode just for you and your friends, playing hours or just minutes is easy and incredibly fun.

If you are new to Killer Queen Black, as I am, then you will like that the tutorial is rather meaty. Now, it doesn’t actually teach you how to play, but it does get you very comfortable with how to achieve victory with the different routes. The first part of each path training will have you perform the path with no opposition, and the follow up will allow you to play against an AI opponent to do the same thing. Then rinse and repeat through all the possible victory paths. It ends with a demonstration of how an actual game will play, making you the Queen and putting you on a team of AI teammates VS a team of AI opponents. If that is not enough to make you feel comfortable, you can even go into Spectate mode where you can watch matches and get an understanding of strategies used.

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Move like a butterfly, sting like a… well.. you get it.

Three additional things to point out. One would be that Killer Queen Black‘s crossplay is fully supported over Switch and PC, with Xbox soon to be added. As of the writing of this, PS4 is not included. Two: if the tutorial was not enough to make you comfortable, or you simply want to waste some time, there is a Spectate mode where you can watch other matches being played. I found this to be valuable in just trying to understand how everything looks in real-time and for possibly noticing strategies. The third thing is being able to keep track of your statistics. Killer Queen Black has detailed stats, keeping track of everything from wins and losses to the number of berries that you collect.

Ask around the virtual halls of WayTooManyGames and everyone will say the same: Todd will choose narrative over gameplay 10 out of 10 times. But that hidden 11th time, where a game truly captures my childhood, putting me right back in that arcade parlor wasting my entire day and allowance, those are the games I hold the closest. Not every game needs be dark and brooding. Not every game needs to be about connecting with your son or surrogate daughter as you fight brutal and evil foes. Sometimes, gameplay truly is king and all you need is to feel like your back in that arcade, wasting your day and allowance… Just don’t tell any of my co-writers that I said that.

 

Graphics: 7.5

Although the graphics do nothing to make the game look “current”, it fully embraces its retro origins.

Gameplay: 10

If gameplay is king, then Killer Queen Black is its kingdom.

Sound: 7.5

Keeps in tune, no pun intended, the classic feel of the graphics and the gameplay.

Fun Factor: 10

Addictive no matter how you play it, but it is best with friends.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Killer Queen Black is available now on PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Killer Queen Black was provided by the publisher.

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