When you spend most of your time covering new releases, you don’t often get to look at pure arcade experiences. Sure, there are games with arcade elements and enhanced ports, but a top to bottom quarter-muncher is a rare beast indeed. That’s what makes KILLER QUEEN BLACK so interesting. A home version of a 2013 indie cabinet, Killer Queen is a strategic multiplayer experience all about distraction, efficiency, and execution. Rounds can slip through your fingers incredibly fast, and teamwork is the key to victory. Removed from the co-op friendly setting of an arcade cabinet, Killer Queen Black tries to bring that same camaraderie to online multiplayer and mostly succeeds.
Killer Queen Black Review | Bring your bee game
In Killer Queen, you’re a member of a race of insects in direct conflict with an opposing hive. Each match starts with two four-player teams: three workers and a Queen. Workers can gather berries in their hive to achieve an economic victory. If that isn’t in the cards, they ride a slow-moving snail across the battlefield for a snail victory or upgrade themselves to join in direct conflict. The Queen is a fast-moving combat class that can take out any other unit with ease. However, putting the Queen on frontlines means they are vulnerable to an opposing Queen attack and three Queen deaths means a military victory for your opponents.
All of these various goals run simultaneously in each match, giving players plenty to focus on. Ideally, you want to try to work towards as many as possible, because you can’t ever know what your opponents are trying to do. Take your eye off one objective and you could find that all your effort was for nothing. This is where Killer Queen Black‘s strategy comes into play, and where playing with strangers sometimes lets you down. While the game does have built-in chat functionality, playing with randoms can be a crapshoot, and a synced up team will always have the advantage in a game like this.
Killer Queen Black Review | Surveying the meta
Thankfully, from my time playing after launch, the community seems pretty good at picking up the slack with newer players. Even when I wasn’t chatting, rounds moved efficiently towards the finish line. There are plenty of great sound cues and visual aids to help players acclimate to what’s happening at a moment’s notice. This is key because rounds can move extremely fast if you’re not putting up a defense to match your offense. That’s when Killer Queen is at its best.
Maybe the cream of the crop arcade fiends won’t fall prey to this, but most players picking up Black for the first time will lose their focus. Each objective is easy to understand, but all three playstyles clash with one another. If you’re focusing in on one, a team can come from behind and grab the win. If you’re a jack of all trades, you’re also leaving yourself open to a coordinated assault. You have to be willing to drop everything and run to another part of the map to save the round, and it keeps you on your toes. That openness keeps matches fresh and what multiplayer games need to succeed.
Killer Queen Black Review | Digital sports!
Speaking of, Killer Queen Black describes itself as an esport, but it doesn’t just have one standardized arena. There are thankfully a good number of different arenas, each one opening up new strategies as you play. On one, the hive where you throw berries might be split in two. On the other, the snail might be raised high on a platform, requiring you to drop him down carefully. But while there should be just a few more selections, there’s a great variety in the game as is.
There are seemingly endless possibilities playing Killer Queen online, but the same can certainly not be said of playing it offline. As you might expect, the single-player campaign is merely a tutorial that shows you the ropes of each distinct mechanic. It’s quite in-depth for what it is, but it’s no replacement for what could be here. A set of single-player challenges, customization, or even more varied bot match options would have been great.
What’s even more disappointing is that Killer Queen Black‘s local multiplayer offering feels like an afterthought. On the Switch, you need two consoles and two copies of the game to play without bots. It is not a ludicrous request, but also not something that’s going to happen spur of the moment. If you just want to wrangle up a friend or two and fight bots on one TV, that does work, but it is hard to feel the same rush that an online match brings. That’s probably by design as this game is strongest when it is played with humans.
Killer Queen Black Review | An arcade original
While it’s odd that an arcade original placed its bets on online play over replicating the original experience, the end result is a fast-paced riot. There are the occasional bouts of lag, which affect a game like this more than most, but there wasn’t anything that ever truly got in the way. Cross-play between Switch and Steam will hopefully keep lobbies full for a good while, and there were plenty of opponents at all hours of the night and day around launch day. But time will tell if that continues and given how paltry the single-player offerings are in comparison, the game depends on that base staying healthy.
With only a scant amount of truly unique experiences coming to the few reaming arcades in America, it is great that Killer Queen Black exists. This is an experience that you won’t get anywhere else, and it deserves to go beyond its current cult status. While there’s room for improvement everywhere outside of online, Black‘s singular focus delivers what you want if you’re looking for something new and different for your multiplayer rotation, even if it doesn’t reign king queen among those games.
GameRevolution reviewed Killer Queen Black on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.