For me, the original Killer Queen was little more than some mystery arcade game occasionally raved about online by the few lucky enough to have a cabinet local to them. It sounded cool sure, but with no means to get hands-on with the thing for myself, all I could do was read about the fun others were having. While my town never did receive its own Killer Queen arcade cabinet in the end, I was more than happy to check out the supposed enhanced version on Switch titled Killer Queen Black. Time to see what all the fuss has been about.
Killer Queen Black is a 2D action platformer that pits two teams of four up against one another other, with one member of each side taking on the role of the Queen and the remaining teammates being Workers. There are three ways for your team to win. There’s the Economic victory accomplished by having your Workers pick up and return enough berries back to your hive. There’s the Snail victory, which involves having one of your Workers ride a snail slowly across the battlefield toward an end goal. The last method is the Military victory, earned when you have managed to take out the Queen of the opposing team three times total. How you go about accomplishing one of these missions is through a mix of teamwork, strong communication and playing your part whether you’re a deadly Queen or a simple Worker.
Workers are limited in their actions with no means to attack or defend and only able to move and jump about. Instead when playing in this role, your focus – more often than not – is purely on moving the snail across the stage or grabbing berries. The Queen meanwhile is capable of not only flying but also dash-attacking too making her a dangerous presence throughout any match. The Queen also has the ability to activate upgrade machines that can transform Workers into more powerful Soldiers. While they lose the ability to ride the snail or pick up berries they are able to attack with swords, guns and other offensive weaponry. Balancing your three Workers between their original and upgraded form is key. Too many of the former and your team will lack attack power. Too many of the latter and you won’t be able to accumulate berries or move the snail along.
Playing Killer Queen Black at first can be a daunting task with so much to keep track of and the action never lets up. Do you start gathering berries? Or perhaps put your focus on trying to ride the snail to victory? Or maybe it’s worth upgrading your Worker and going on the attack or defending your Queen? Layer on top of that the fact you’re trying to coordinate with your teammates and you have a game that if unprepared can collapse into absolute chaos. I’m not going to lie, the first half dozen or so matches my friends and I played were little more than a cluster of shouting and confusion. No one knew what they should be focused on and we didn’t gel as a team.
After a half dozen more games though, things started to click. Suddenly matches weren’t just four players independently doing their own thing. Now we were working together. We were talking. If the Queen was down to her final life we knew to change our strategy, upgrade some Workers and defend. If someone noticed the snail dangerously close the opponent’s finish line then we’d shift gears and try to shift it back in the other direction.
That’s the thing with Killer Queen Black. Out the gate, it’s a game that’s intimidating especially to those that aren’t massive gamers. There’s a lot to take on board that you’re not going to pick up in a meager one or two matches. With a little persistence though, the game’s frantic nature becomes manageable revealing a surprising depth and level of strategy most team-based multiplayer games barely touch upon.
As a package, Killer Queen Black might feel a little light, a brief albeit useful tutorial the only real extras you’ll find outside it’s main four versus four offering. Sure you can take the battle online or locally but as far as mode variations go, well there are none. Even the map count might seem a little on the low side to some. All that being said, however, I never found it to be a problem, the game fun and deep enough to keep us coming back over and over.
Online works great for the most part, a large quantity of my games both quick to find and running smooth. Better still is being able to take your team (or part of one) online from a single console. While I had fun joining a bunch of randoms, the best way to enjoy the game is when you’re able to easily communicate with your teammates. The game does support voice chat, a feature it seems not many players are taking advantage of but it’s no replacement for being in the same room together.
Easily the game’s biggest disappointment is its complete lack of any option to play with eight players locally on a single Switch. Instead, you’ll need two devices and two copies of the game to get an eight-player session going in the same room. It’s a frustrating decision and one that will likely prevent a lot of players from experiencing the game in arguably its best form. There’s no question that we had the best overall time when we had all eight participants together in one room. It seems like a no brainer especially since other games like Super Bomberman R, Runbow, Party Golf, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate all cater to eight on one Switch. The fact it’s missing here is a major blow especially as someone who loves playing local multiplayer party games.
Killer Queen Black is an excellent multiplayer game that’s surprisingly enjoyable online but even better when played with friends. While I wish the local options extended to two full teams on a single system, its absence is only one disappointment in an otherwise fantastically fun game.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Liquid Bit