Killer Queen Black Review — Killer in Every Way
With fast-paced, unpredictable gameplay, Killer Queen Black is a must-play multiplayer experience that breaks out from its arcade roots.
As much as I enjoy being competitive in many of the games that I play, I’ve always had an appreciation for games that manage to strike a balance between simplicity and depth. While I’ve dabbled in Street Fighter or Marvel vs. Capcom, having to remember long, complex attack strings has never been my specialty, and I’m too intimidated to even begin playing anything to the level of Dota or League of Legends. I get more enjoyment out of competitive games that you can pick up quickly but learn their deeper skills over time, and few other multiplayer games recently have managed to strike that balance as perfectly for me as Killer Queen Black.
Part platformer, strategy game, and party game, Killer Queen Black is an intriguing blend of genres that many will likely not have heard of, coming from fairly obscure arcade roots. But whether or not you’ve heard of the game before, Killer Queen Black is an exceptional multiplayer experience that combines strategy and tactics with the thrilling chaos of playing alongside your friends. Though it might take a little bit of time to become accustomed to how it plays, Killer Queen Black will likely have you ready to jump into another match right after the last one finishes thanks to the unpredictability of how it can play out.
For those unfamiliar with the game, Killer Queen Black is essentially a from-the-ground-up remake/successor to 2013’s Killer Queen, an indie game project that eventually became an arcade hit across the US. Killer Queen quickly grew a cult following for its hectic, challenging gameplay that is the epitome of simple to learn, but difficult to master. However, the majority of audiences probably haven’t been able to play the original arcade version if they don’t live near a “proper” arcade, making Killer Queen Black the ideal way to experience this unique title on Switch and PC (with an Xbox One release to follow).
Killer Queen Black makes a few changes from the structure of the original arcade game, mainly that it is now a 4v4 experience versus the original’s 5v5 format, along with the inclusion of online multiplayer modes and brand new visuals. Despite these substantial new additions and refinements, Killer Queen Black keeps the original arcade experience pretty much intact, and thankfully it’s still just as much of a blast as it was to play in the arcade.
The basics of Killer Queen Black are relatively simple: each team is composed of four players (three Drones and the Queen), with three different paths and win conditions to claim victory. Each team either has to have their Drones collect 12 berries and return them to their hive (an Economic victory), ride the snail at the bottom of the map to the finish line (an aptly-named Snail victory), or kill the enemy team’s Queen three times (a Military victory). While in practice each of these conditions are fairly easy to accomplish, achieving any of these objectives in a match will lead to victory, making Killer Queen Black deceptively complex in how players try to have an edge over their team and win the match.
Though there are only two roles to play as on each team, Killer Queen Black gives both the Drones and the Queen a wide range of abilities and strategies to utilize. The Drones especially have the capability to play radically different depending on the player, as they can switch between their more supportive role by default and instead become more combative. Specifically, the Drones have the ability to morph into different Soldier forms through special pods that can be claimed by their team’s Queen. By activating them with a berry, the Drones can become melee or gun-wielding Soldiers that are capable of killing the Queen, or they can enhance their speed to either gather berries or ride the snail more quickly to victory.
The Queen by contrast is an especially vital role in Killer Queen Black, given that only one player on each team is able to play as her per match. The Queen has both a lunge and dive attack that make her unmatched in combat, but her limited amount of three lives makes it crucial to keep her alive at all costs. This creates an interesting balance where players have to carefully manage being aggressive with the Queen and taking out enemy players where needed, but also recognizing when to stay back and turn to the other players on your team for protection.
This push and pull between offense and defense is a large reason why Killer Queen Black’s core gameplay works so effectively as a multiplayer experience. Though the gameplay of the multiplayer is largely the same across its different modes, the varying win conditions and layers of strategy gives Killer Queen Black a hidden depth that can be explored by players as they spend more time with it. The way that the game has been balanced makes each victory path no more challenging or advantageous than the other, and ultimately encourages quick-thinking and strategy over brute force when trying to claim victory.
When I initially started playing Killer Queen Black, I almost always tried to go for the Military victory by taking out the enemy Queen, and while it seems like the quickest path to victory, it also happens to be the quickest path to failure if you play carelessly. Instead, I found more successful strategies by playing more defensively in trying to keep my Queen alive, or fending off the enemy team to give my Drones enough time to gather berries or ride the snail to victory. Even with a bonafide strategy or system, Killer Queen Black ensures that players have equal opportunities for success and failure, and it’s thrilling to see it all play out with a full team of eight players working together (ideally in the same room, as this game is definitely meant for local multiplayer).
The Nintendo Switch version especially feels like the natural home for Killer Queen Black, as being able to play it locally and on-the-go makes it incredibly easy to get in a few rounds with friends, with a few caveats. The smaller screen size of the Switch when playing in either handheld or tabletop mode can sometimes make managing the chaotic rounds of Killer Queen Black a bit of a struggle, lending itself more to being played on a big-screen TV. While playing in handheld mode as well, I sometimes had some slight performance issues where it would occasionally hiccup at certain moments, making for not ideal situations in the middle of a match where precision often matters immensely. However, by and large Killer Queen Black plays pretty smoothly, and the Switch version is especially appealing by giving players the flexibility of where they can play it.
Killer Queen Black already has an extremely solid foundation when it comes to gameplay and its core multiplayer experience, which now makes the real question about what the game’s player base and long-term support will be like after launch. The inclusion of online multiplayer (instead of keeping the game confined to local play) is already a huge addition, alongside support for cross-play between the different versions of the game. However, with a limited range of game types and maps compared to most other multiplayer games (indie or otherwise), I am hoping that the inclusion of new maps and other content down the line can ensure that an active player base will keep coming back over the months to come.
Aside from its few flaws, as both a multiplayer experience and party game, Killer Queen Black is immensely satisfying and truly one-of-a-kind. From first playing it at several gaming conventions to its final version, Killer Queen Black has only grown on me as one of the best multiplayer experiences that I’ve ever played, and now that the game will be widely available on other platforms, I can’t wait to dig into it even further. While games like Smash Bros. and Mario Kart have been my go-tos for playing with friends or at parties, I guarantee that Killer Queen Black is going to be added to the rotation in the future.