My history with the Killer Queen property really only began about a year and a half ago, when the legends over at Kinda Funny Games went crazy because of a Twitter profile pic change. After hearing their hyping up of the arcade title and watching some videos on it, Killer Queen, and shortly after announced, Killer Queen Black, instantly peaked my interest. Luckily for me, the series was coming to consoles and PCs at last!
September 2018 rolled around, and I had the chance to meet with some of the development team at PAX West. I spoke to them about the game and tried out a demo build of Black with other members of IP (Undefeated, baby!). The tense, white-knuckle thrill ride sent this game from being a passing blip on my radar, to a full on red-alert, all hands on deck, experience that I needed in my hands right then and there. Now, a year later, the game is mine, and it’s time to wage war on enemy hives!
On paper, or screen rather, Killer Queen Black is a team-oriented, objective-based, best-of-five, where you and yours must successfully meet one of three different criteria to win a round. This simple premise however, belies the depth and strategy below the surface.
Teams of four, comprised of one queen and three workers, struggle to either kill the enemy queen thrice, fill their own hive with berries, or (and my personal favorite) ride a slow moving slug through a finish line. Queens are quick and deadly, wielding rapiers that are able to pierce and skewer opponents,while also claiming upgrade stations. Don’t expect them to be riding any slugs or picking up berries to take to the hive. They are above that, being queens and all.
That’s where the workers come in. Comparatively slow moving targets that get saddled with the grunt work and unfortunate situations like having to throw themselves in front of a slug to get eaten. Should the need arise however, there is great potential in these workers. Should they manage to carry a berry with them into an upgrade station their queen has claimed, they will be armed with weapons and their own ability to fly. No longer able to carry goods to the hive or ride the slug, they can now join the fray with their queen, in attacking the enemy workers or queen!
This balance of prioritizing the goals to reach victory while also thwarting your opponents is the sweet honey on the top of this exciting game cake. Communication is key, and you will be much more likely to win if you talk to your teammates as opposed to if you go Rambo-Worker and try to succeed on your own. Your team could be right next to you, playing locally on the Nintendo Switch via multiple controllers or online play. They could be on the computer with the PC version too! This game joins the growing list of beautiful titles that are cross-play enabled! As of the time of this review however, cross-platform parties aren’t yet implemented but should be via a launch day patch or soon after. Hurray!
You aren’t out of luck though. If, for whatever reason, your friends are leaving you high-and-dry mid game, open spots on teams will be auto-filled with bots. I became rather good friends with many of these bots.Whenever I got on to play matches for this review, I never got a full team composed of real players. On the plus side, I can say that the bots do a good job completing objectives and fighting you when upgraded. I am happy to report though that playing online with full lobbies, the game still performed and ran great. Playing with people from across the country and even some teammates overseas, very rarely did I encounter any noticeable lag or delay, and any I did come across resolved itself fairly quickly.
There’s not much else to do though outside of matches against bots or against people. There is a ranked game mode, where the top team online will be colored black (where the “BLACK” comes from in Killer Queen Black), but outside of that honor, not a lot here to really push for. A stark contrast to what players have started to expect in multiplayer centric games these days. This game could benefit from some additional game modes or game options.
I did have some fantastic back and forth matches with a human player that went by Josh. Josh, wherever you are, if you read this, just know you got lucky that last match and we are still tied two matches to two. Come at me, Josh!
The visual and audio presentation of Black does a great job keeping you engaged. Bright contrast between the characters and the backgrounds, which helps to keep things clear for players when things get crazy. I loved the chubby and kind of derpy look of the workers and how they contrasted so starkly against the sleek, arrow-dynamic look of the queens. I wish there was a bit more variety in terms of the sprites. Customization options for your queen or workers that could allow you to customize their appearance to make it distinguish your worker from another, at a quick glance would be great.
Backgrounds of the levels are finely detailed, with my personal favorite being the Black Queen’s Keep with the statues of a worker and queen in the background. Each stage has its own unique vibe to the level, which is only accentuated by the killer guitar riffs in the music. If the action doesn’t get your blood pumping, then the music playing will. It’s fast tempos and frantic exciting tones make the games all that more enjoyable.
Do I think the wait was worth it for Killer Queen Black? The formula here is a blast to play, and faithful to the beloved original arcade version. I never felt that the decrease from 10 players to eight impacted or hindered my experience. The levels were designed for eight and they play damn good with eight. I love the strategy involved with each round, and the pulse-pounding twitch action of a queen v. queen fight. Playing this game online with friends has been one of the most fun party-game experiences I’ve had in a long time. The fast paced nature of the games mixed with the ability to play against friends or take on random players online with my friends who are over, make this a perfect addition in my stack of go-to party games. Who knows, if your team is feeling lucky, maybe you’ll be the lucky ones to dethrone the IP team?
PS. Josh, we need to settle the score…I’m ready anytime.
This game was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch system with a review code provided by the games PR group.