REVIEW: ‘Killer Queen Black’- A Strong Opening With Little Staying Power (Switch)

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Killer Queen
 Black is a multiplayer action/platformer developed by Liquid Bit, LLC. In this frantic platformer teams of four players, each must compete to prove who has the dominant hive. With multiple paths to victory, Killer Queen Black strives to keep matches feeling fresh and unique. If only the map selection strove for the same goal.

I first got to play Killer Queen Black earlier this year at PAXEast. Due to the amazing experience I had playing that demo, I eagerly awaited the opportunity to get my hands on this game again for a deeper dive. Now that I have, I have a better understanding of both the strengths and weaknesses this game brings to the table. Before we dive into the details, let me tell you what exactly this game is.

Each match of Killer Queen Black consists of a series of individual games pitting two teams of four players against each other. The first team to three victories wins. Within each team there are three workers and one Queen. These four players must work together to complete one of the three victory conditions before their opponents. These conditions are:

    1. Kill the opposing Queen three times
    2. Fill your hive full of berries
    3. Ride the snail to your finish line.

Killer Queen Black

With all of these victory conditions being available simultaneously there is a lot to keep up with in Killer Queen Black. While pursuing your team’s chosen path, the players must also keep an eye on their opponents so they can stop them from winning first. A tight balance of offense and defense is needed to ensure a team’s eventual victory.

The basic moment to moment gameplay in Killer Queen Black is straightforward enough. The workers navigate the map going from platform to platform as they either gather berries or attempt to bring the snail to their finish line. While the workers are running about their tasks the Queen is flying around the map either hunting the opponent’s Queen or attempting to disrupt their workers from their tasks.

Once both teams have begun working toward their goals is when the nuances of Killer Queen Black comes to light. Each team must decide whether or not to simply push ahead with the path they are chasing or if they want to divert characters to derailing their opponent’s plans. This can be done by a team shifting their focus to the same goal as an opponent in an attempt to deny them their aim, or to have one or more workers upgrade themselves to aid the Queen in defeating opposing characters, or perhaps even a bit of both.

Being able to determine what is the best way to respond to your opponent’s plan is of critical importance in a match. It feels like it will be that under-appreciated skill that great players will use to separate themselves from the pack.

Additionally the game has two character types, the Queen and the workers. To properly pursue your goals, and thwart your opponents’, you have to know how to properly utilize the two character types. Of the two character types, the Queen is arguably the most important of the two.

This is due both to what she can do and what she can’t do. While the Queen is the most powerful unit, able to both fly and attack at the begging of each match, she also has access to a powerful downward dash movement workers can never gain. In addition, she also has the ability to take control of upgrade chambers(more on these in a moment)locking them off from the enemy team.

While her abilities make her a potent force to deal with, her most critical feature is her weakness. If the Queen dies three times the game is over. While this check is important to game balancing, it comes at a cost. If a group finds themselves with a significantly worse player controlling their Queen than their opponents it can be a very hard match.

While the Queen’s power lies in her focused role killing opposing players, the workers’ strength lie in versatility. Workers can do almost anything. Right at the start they can ride the snail or grab berries from around the map and return them to the hive. However, if a worker gains access to an upgrade pod, they can become something else entirely.

Upgrade pods are scattered throughout maps, with each pod bearing two symbols on it. These symbols correspond with the type of upgrades workers can acquire by entering the pod. Upgrades range from shields, speed boosts, and flight, to a number of different weapon types. When a worker gains a weapon type it losses its other abilities, making combat its new function.  Due to this upgradability, workers are excellent in pursuing whatever goal the player is chasing.

Killer Queen Black launches with six different maps available for players to compete on. While all the maps are well balanced and look distinctive they, along with some questionable implementation, quickly became the game’s weakest point for me.

Each map has all the required elements for the game: hives, the snail, upgrade pods. While these elements are all organized in different ways across the maps, this reorganization doesn’t feel like enough to truly make each map feel different. After only a few matches I quickly found all the maps blurring together. This sense of repetitiveness isn’t helped any by the bizarre way maps are implemented within a given match.

Before each match begins the players are shown which maps they will be playing on and the order they will appear. The ordering of the maps is random. And I mean 100% random. It was not uncommon during my matches to have the same map played three times in a row. This hurt the game experience significantly to me and seems like a feature that never should’ve gotten into the final game.

Killer Queen Black is a coop game through and through. As such, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that it is best enjoyed grouped up with a bunch of friends. However, I found that my experience lessened greatly when playing with randoms. This in and of itself isn’t a criticism. It is an acknowledgment that, if you are likely to be going solo, you might want to go elsewhere.

There are a couple of important features to Killer Queen Black that might be important for some gamers to be aware of. First is that the only thing differentiating the two teams on the field is their color. One team is blue while the other is gold. There is no colorblind option in the settings to help sort out who is who.

The other aspect some players might struggle with is controlling flying units. In particular the Queen. In order for a character to fly they must repeatedly press the B button. This continuous button pressing could cause problems for those with joint difficulties.

In the end, I found there is certainly fun to be had with Killer Queen Black. It provides a frantic coop experience that provides lots of potential for unique situations within the confines of its maps. But, the relative sameness of maps and over-importance on the Queen character holds it back from being a true stand out. When coupled with the need for friends to truly experience the game, it is certainly a game that will not work for everybody.

Killer Queen Black is available on October 11 for Nintendo Switch and PC.

Killer Queen Black 
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

In the end, I found there is certainly fun to be had with Killer Queen Black. It provides a frantic coop experience that provides lots of potential for unique situations within the confines of its maps. But, the relative sameness of maps and over-importance on the Queen character holds it back from being a true stand out.