While the home gaming scene continues to thrive as it has been for the past few years, arcades aren’t doing too bad these days either. Between pinball machines and other new offerings, there’s a demand in the market, mainly due to bar-arcade combinations (barcades, as some deem them). This is also the place where Killer Queen got its start.
In case you haven’t heard of it, this is a multiplayer game developed and released by BumbleBear Games. It initially debuted at New York University’s “No Quarter” exhibition in 2013 and has become a huge favorite since, leading to larger arcade distribution and even leagues. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before it made the journey home.
Killer Queen Black isn’t quite the same experience as its arcade counterpart. There’s a slightly smaller player count; and there’s an online component that wasn’t present before, ideal for those who want to play with others out-of-state. However, the party atmosphere remains, as you compete against a rival team and attempt to win one of three ways. Even a smaller party game is a great party game, especially when it’s Killer Queen Black.
It’s How You Win the Game
The game has you playing as four players on a team, against rivals of the same count. You’ve got one player controlling a Queen, a dominant warrior that hunts after enemies with her blade, while the others control Drones, that either can gather berries or kick them around. They can also be transformed, once transformation gates open up, becoming a Warrior that can hunt after rival team members in their own right. It sounds complicated, but it’s really quite simple to get into.
There are three ways to win:
The first is Military. This is the most practical, and sometimes the easiest way to score a victory. The goal is to kill the opposing team’s Queen three times, with lives indicated by eggs near the hive. Once those three lives run out, the other team wins. Now, Drones can’t win by killing the Queen. However, the rival Queen and Warriors can take them out, either with distance weapons like lasers and guns, or with an up-close sword attack.
The second way to win is by Economic. This is a little bit trickier, but also handy when players are too busy watching each other’s Queens. Drones can collect berries that are scattered throughout a stage and take them back to the hive, where there are holes waiting to be filled up. They can either burrow in and plant them there or throw them, though they’re likely to be intercepted. Once a board is filled with these berries, the win belongs to that team.
Finally, there’s Snail. This is probably the trickiest way to win but sometimes the most satisfying. The goal is to ride a snail across the stage to an awaiting goal, colored similarly to your team. There’s a goal on each end, and Warriors and Queens can easily kill the Drone riding atop of it, with another ready to take its place.
Now, there’s a twist with the Snail. Enemies can actually take out Drones and lay their carcasses in the path of the Snail. As a result, he’ll stop and eat it, slowing his progress almost instantly and making the Drone riding on top of it a sitting duck. There’s also the ability to eat a Speed Drone. When one of these types of characters hops aboard the Snail, they go significantly faster. Ride the Snail into the goal, and your team wins the round.
For the most part, whoever wins the most matches gets the victory. With three decisive ways to win, a team can turn around its bad luck during the course of a match. Now that’s what we call a party game.
What Are the Differences Between Arcade and Home?
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two versions is the player count. The original Killer Queen arcade game has ten players, with five to a side. In Black, it’s down to four per side. This was probably to make the experience less cluttered on a TV or monitor at home, since it can’t replicate the large-sized screen the coin-operated machine has.
In addition, there are actually four different modes to try out here. The first is Tutorial, which teaches you the basics of the game. It’s not that deep a mode, but it’s worth going through if you want to learn the basics.
The next is Quick Match. If you don’t care who you go up against, you can hop in here for a quick round of action online, via the Nintendo Online Network, or Steam if you’re playing on PC.
Ranked is a bit trickier. This is more for the experienced set of Killer Queen players, as it’s tough business. You’ll reap more rewards from your victories as a result, and find tougher competition to go against. If you’ve got a good squad on hand, this is the mode for you.
Finally, Custom lets you set up specialty rules and then hop online to see who will want to play alongside you. This takes a little longer, as some players aren’t really looking for specific rules with their Killer Queen sessions. It’s fun to play around with, so give it a try.
Multiplayer Both Online and Off
Killer Queen Black supports both online and offline play. You can play online with up to seven other people, or take part in a local match with your friends and some AI selections.
The game unfortunately doesn’t have much to offer on the single player front, as there’s no campaign. In fact, the tutorial mode is probably the only one built with solo players in mind. Filling in the void with AI players is a cinch, and they actually behave rather well, both as friends and enemies.
The real kick here is getting your friends involved in a match. That shows Killer Queen Black at its finest, when things get really competitive and you’re yelling at each other on the couch. It’s a real blast to play any of these modes that way, though online works as well.
The only downside is that the action can be a bit tough to track on the portable side. The game does run well when the Switch is in handheld mode, but the screen is so zoomed out that it’s hard to make out where some characters are. For your party sessions, plugging into your TV is the best way to go. If you have a Switch Lite and want to connect with others online, it’s not that bad of an option. Just be aware of what the best quality is for a game like this.
The Gameplay Is Challenging -- and Perfect
As for how Killer Queen Black plays, I was truly impressed by the job Liquid Bit did with the translation of BumbleBear’s classic. Despite the shrunken player count and the limited number of maps (six in all right now), Black is incredibly fun.
It does help to go through the tutorials and learn a thing or two, particularly about the Queen’s rapid movement and how to properly transform a Drone into something greater. No matter which role you play, it just feels right, like you’re actually contributing to the team.
There were no glitches during my play time with Black. I managed to run around with Drones with ease, riding the Snail and kicking around berries like a pro. Of course, the true experience belongs to the armed characters, like the Warrior and the Queen.
It can be a bit confusing at times with eight players going at it, especially on the small screen, but it’s a worthwhile game that’ll have them screaming in delight, even if they lose. The camaraderie is really something with a game like Killer Queen Black, and it shows with each new match-up you partake in.
A Killer Design
Liquid Bit could’ve easily “spruced” up Killer Queen Black into something more modernized outside of its pixel look, but why would it? Fans that pick up this game want to get the exact same experience they did from the coin-op. For the most part, that’s what they get.
The animations are about the same, whether it’s the sluggish movement of the Snail (particularly when he’s eating), and the maps, despite being designed about the same, are excellent, giving you lots of room to run around and plot your next strategy. When you’re not getting bludgeoned by the queen, that is.
The performance between platforms is nice as well. I do re-emphasize that TV is the way to go, but the game’s a charming looker in both handheld and docked mode.
There’s not much in the way of sound, but Liquid Bit does capture the essence of Killer Queen when it comes to audio. The sound effects are a real treat, when you can hear them; and the little bits of music are actually rather cool. However, you may be too busy shouting to really hear what they offer anyway. Not a big deal.
Killer Queen Black doesn’t have an incredibly high amount of gameplay to offer. You’ve got three different types of soldiers on the field and simple tasks that must be completed with a team to win. That’s really about it, but it’s this simple structure that’s simply stunning. I didn’t get bored with Killer Queen Black once during my match-ups, always finding something new to fully enjoy each time I jumped in. If Liquid Bit can also pull off this cross-platform play to include the Xbox One, whenever that version does surface, it’ll really make a world of difference. The more people enjoying this, the better.
While this game doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, the three ways it provides you a chance to score a victory are really something. You can be completely non-violent and try to ride a Snail to a win, you can collect berries and fill a board like a non-traditional round of Tic-Tac-Toe, or you can take control of a dominating warrior and try to win with some quick slashes. There’s something here for everyone, despite the simple structure. It’s brilliant.
Here’s where Killer Queen Black earns its keep. Online multiplayer works like a charm, even though some match-ups in Custom can take a while to connect. The eight player versus action works wonderfully on the Nintendo Switch. The game is a delight with local multiplayer, as each one can take control using a JoyCon or a Pro Controller connected to the system. No matter which way you go, it’s a party that you’re going to have a tough time stopping.
It’s not the most deeply designed game out there, but Killer Queen Black is loyal to the arcade game and that’s what’s going to count as far as these fans are concerned. It looks just like BumbleBear’s original release, and sounds like it too. Even though the map count could be greater, what’s here looks impressive in both docked and handheld mode. The best way to go is to play on a big TV, so everyone can see what’s happening without having to squint.
The game may not have much on the single player front, but Killer Queen Black comes through with some terrific modes, as well as ample eight-player support for multiplayer matches. It nicely fills in the gap with AI opponents that actually know what they’re doing, compared to most games.
It took awhile for the game to get here, as it was announced last year, but Killer Queen Black has made a highly effective transition to the home gaming front. No matter which version you go after there’s multiplayer fun waiting. There’s also a small bit of content for single players, but, really, get some friends together. The gameplay is exciting, with something for everyone, and the presentation is true to the original arcade game. If you can’t make your way to a barcade and enjoy the splendor of Killer Queen, then Black is the next obvious choice. Don’t let this Killer party slip through your fingers.
Outstanding translation of the original arcade game, even with the lower player count
Gameplay feels just right, no matter which role you’re playing
Multiplayer is incredibly fun, with a variety of options and modes on hand
Not much to offer when it comes to single player
Playing on a tiny handheld screen makes things hard to see
Custom matches can take a little while to set up