Dynamite with a lazer bee
There was a tale I heard on a podcast a while back about a unique arcade game, involving two teams of 5. These teams would fight in strange hive-like battlegrounds, trying to achieve victory using one of three methods. One of them involved riding a snail. No, really. Of course, with this being an expensive arcade cabinet based exclusively in America, I had to put my chance to play it on the back burner. However, when the opportunity arose to give a copy of the Nintendo Switch and PC ports of this game came up, I jumped at the chance. Ladies and gents, this is a tale of Killer Queen Black, aka your next favourite party game.
So, what the hell is it all about? Well… As you can guess, it’s a multiplayer game first and foremost. There is the option to play solo with bots, but honestly this game opens up a whole lot more if you can get a couple of people over to join in the fun. The main difference between Black and the arcade game is the maximum number of players is reduced to 8. My guess is that this is exclusively down to having a hard limit of 8 players on a Switch. This doesn’t seem to impact the game in a noticeable way however, because it is still a ton of fun.
This may have 2 fewer players than its arcade brother, but it’s still an absolute blast
The structure of the game is pretty simple. You jump into a match, and choose your character. Both teams consist of one Queen and 3 “workers”. The queen has a much more expansive range of movement, with quick dashes and an ability to fly by continuously tapping on the jump button. Workers will have to run around the map and carry out a few tasks, and attempt to get an upgrade to gain the ability to attack (turning them into Soldiers) or defend themselves (or their queen!) throughout the course of the match.
Every match consists of a “best of 5” scenario. You have to achieve victory, as previously mentioned, by one of three methods. The first is to kill the enemy queen 3 times, earning you a “Military” victory. The second is to gather up enough berries and return to your hive in order to fill it and complete an “Economic” victory. The third victory method is a “Snail” victory. No, really. In every round, there is a giant snail sitting in the centre. If you can jump on it and ride it like the world’s slowest pony to your hive, you will achieve the elusive Snail victory. Of course, you’ll probably get skewered by the enemy queen on the way, but that’s all part of the risk/reward of KQB.
A set of deceptively simple mechanics make KQB so much fun to play, and truly embrace the “Easy to play, difficult to master” nature of any good multiplayer title. Matches get incredibly hectic, incredibly quickly, and if you don’t start communicating with your teammates or have defined roles before you go into the round, you can very quickly come unstuck as the chaos unfolds around you. Focusing on your own character is a sure-fire way to lose round after round, as you need to call out things that your fellow insects may have missed. Of course, you also need to make sure that you’re not being stalked by the weaponised enemies, and… Oh man, this game is just chaotic in all the best ways.
Of course, when you start seeing some higher level play in KQB thanks to its in-built spectator mode, it all starts looking increasingly complicated. There is one unique mechanic in the game based around the online nature, and that is the titular “Black” team. Usually, your teams will be split up into Blue and Gold, but there will be one team in the world at any one time wearing different outfits. The Black Team. If you find yourself up against them, you’re going to have to be on the top of your game to defeat them, as they will be the number 1 ranked team at that stage. If you beat them, however, you’ll snatch the coveted title off them and you will become the new Black Team. Oh, and did I mention that the Black Team’s games are permanently being live-streamed on Twitch? That’s an extremely cool feature that, while not active at the time of review, promises to make for a very entertaining 24/7 stream.
The game looks and sounds great as well. Solid framerates are a must for these types of titles, and thankfully due to its pixel-art stylings, it achieves a solid 60 even in the most hectic of moments on the Switch. A thumping metal soundtrack accompanies you throughout each round, with telltale music cues popping up when you eliminate an enemy or carry out certain tasks. Voice chat is enabled by default in all multiplayer games, and I’d recommend keeping it switched on to be able to yell at your teammates, but if you can’t hook up a headset, there’s a very handy alerting system mapped to the controller or keyboard. Another cool touch is that the game is fully cross platform between Switch and PC, with further formats to come down the line, so I’m told.