STAFF REVIEW of Killer Queen Black (Xbox One)

Wednesday, March 10, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Killer Queen Black Box art I’ve been out of touch with the arcade scene for probably two decades now. To be fair, they don’t exist in the same capacity that I grew up with all those years ago. In doing so, I’ve somehow missed out on an arcade game that apparently has quite a cult following; Killer Queen. This was a small indie game that made its way into arcades, offering addictive and frantic multiplayer action that after now having played Killer Queen Black, I wish I was able to try the original in person. Obviously arcades aren’t what they once were, so Killer Queen Black is now making its way to console, and better yet, included on Game Pass, including xCloud to play on the go as well.

In short, Killer Queen Black is a 4v4 where both teams are trying to win the match in one of three different ways. You can win by killing the enemy Queen three times in a match, depositing enough berries into your base, or ride a snail across the finish line. Yup, you can ride a snail. With multiple ways to win a match there’s a surprising amount of strategy involved, constantly needing to be adjusted on the fly as you see what’s successful against the other team or to counter how they’re attempting to win. It looks really basic as you play through the tutorial, but after playing against some teams that actually employed real strategies, I became more intrigued and impressed with its premise.

You’re able to quickly jump into some Quick Play matches to get some experience under your belt, but also have the option to dive head first into some Ranked matches once you think your team is strong enough to compete. You can even make custom matches for friends, and you’re given a handful of toggles to change gravity and a few other options as well should you wish for some unique matches. Plus, cross-platform is also supported, so finding Quick Play matches never took too long for the most part.

When you begin you’ll choose what class you want to play, a Worker or the Queen. Teams consist of one Queen and three Workers each, though once in game you’ll be able to upgrade your Worker to be a Soldier should you wish, which has its own style of gameplay and specific role.

Playing as the Queen you can tap the button to fly around freely while also using your rapier to dive and thrust, killing any enemies in your way. The Queen has a few roles to play though, with the most important being that you ensure you don’t die three times, or else the enemy wins the match. You can either choose to try and take out enemy Workers, Soldiers or Queen, but this will also put you at risk as well. The playfield also has a few stations that the Workers can choose to upgrade into Soldiers if they wish, but only if that team’s Queen has captured it for themselves, designated by the team color.

Workers can only jump and not able to attack, but they too also play a pivotal role in a match, either grabbing and delivering berries to bring back to your base or to ride the Snail slowly across the finish line. If a Worker wants to actually be able to attack and defend, then they’ll need to use one of the machines to upgrade their character, choosing from a couple of different weapons. These are the units you’ll need to attack against the enemy Queen and to get Workers off the Snail. Keep in mind though, Soldiers can’t pick up berries or ride the Snail, so you need to balance your team so you don’t get left out of certain options if needed. Every class and player has a specific role to play at any given time based on your strategy.

As mentioned above, there’s basically three different ways to win a match: Economic, Military or Snail. A Snail win is when a basic Worker sits on the Snail and rides it all the way across the map to their finish line. Sounds easy but you can’t defend yourself in any way when doing this, so you have to constantly be weary of enemies coming nearby to take you out. Economic is when these Workers grab berries and bring them back to their base to fill the holes, usually requiring a dozen or so. Again, you can’t defend yourself as a plan Worker, so you have to try and avoid the enemy Soldiers and Queen. Lastly, a Military win is when you manage to kill the enemy Queen three times in a match. Win three matches and the game is finally won.

While these seem like simple ways to win, you have to constantly adapt and change based on what the enemy team is trying to do. If they are trying to go for an Economic or Snail victory, then you’ll want to play a little more aggressive, trying to take out their workers. If you’re going to try and go for a Military win by taking out their Queen, this is viable, but focusing on this strategy alone leaves the Snail and berries open for the other team if the enemy Queen simply flies around to avoid being killed, distracting you from their strategy. I’ve run into a few really good teams that seemed almost unbeatable, and having communication with the three other players on your team (if not filled in with bots) will be absolutely critical. No one person can carry a whole team.

Once a match is over and a victor is crowned, you can choose to play again or shuffle teams if you got destroyed. I’m not sure how Killer Queen Black decides on how to match-make and pair players together, as I’ve had a few matches that were completely lopsided. While I had no problems jumping into Quick Play, especially since bots can tide you over until players join, finding a Ranked match took much longer. If you simply want to sit back and watch how other people play, you can choose KQBTV (Killer Queen Black TV) from the main menu which will put you into a random match to simply spectate.

The retro pixel graphics are animated quite well, the characters and levels are bright and colorful, and while the level design is simply a static stage that you maneuver your teams around, I still enjoyed its presentation overall. The audio is also retro, utilizing ‘ping’ and ‘pong’ like sound effects for jumping and interactions of your characters. I do suggest throwing on some Spotify or your own music in the background though, as there’s really not much of a soundtrack aside from a few short loops, making some matches feel a little hollow when you notice it.

I’ll be honest, I initially wasn’t expecting much from Killer Queen Black with my first impressions after getting through the tutorial, but once I started to really understand how each class is integral in their own way, you realize there’s a surprisingly amount of strategy needed to succeed. I’m not sure if it could hit eSports levels of competition, but it certainly did impress me overall once you start to really understand its gameplay and depth, constantly having to adapt on the fly.

Games like Killer Queen Black will only be relevant as long as there is a large community playing it, so thankfully it has landed on Xbox Game Pass, removing much of the barrier to giving it a chance. There aren’t many games that allow you to win by riding a snail over a finish line, but this surely is one of them.

**Killer Queen Black was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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