Killer Queen Black has an interesting history. It originally started as a completely arcade experience back in 2013, called Killer Queen. And by arcade experience, I mean a proper arcade machine in all its glory, and it was very well received – and it’s not hard to understand why.
Don’t be put off by the old-school retro style pixel art graphics – there’s a fine tuned, deeply competitive multiplayer extravaganza here.
The premise is simple. You fight for your hive to win, and there are multiple ways of doing so.
First up, the economic victory. Fill your hive with berries littered around the map, and it’s game over. Perhaps you’ll go the military route, vying to wipe out the enemy queen, who only has three lives. or lastly, and most bizarrely, perhaps victory will be claimed via getting the Snail to your home goal? The choice is yours.
This console release, aside from a subtle name change to Killer Queen Black, has also seen a few minor changes from the arcade release, one being the player count has been adjusted slightly from 5v5 to be a laser focused 4v4 experience instead. One would surmise this is to primarily promote the online local experience, as you can take 4 people on one console online with you to pit your skills against other teams, as well as full standard online play. Importantly, the gameplay and it’s many, frantic layers remain fundamentally intact.
And oh my, what layers there are.
Dynamite with a Laser Beam
Killer Queen Black has so many things going on at once on screen it reminds me of the early days playing Titanfall or #iDARB which often resulted in gameplay that could be described as busy, but it certainly fits the theme of buzzing hives. Having the option of three different ways to attain victory makes every round spontaneous.
Playing with a group of friends allows you to really strategize. For instance, one person can go for the Snail while another upgrades to a Mace wielding soldier and locks down the oppositions hive, the queen defends the Snail rider and the last player just harvests away in the background. All options remain on the table, allowing you to pivot strategy as required.
Having a skilful Queen on your team can make all the difference; dropping from the top of the map to the bottom destroying everything in her path whilst avoiding all attacks from others can win a round in an amazingly fast time. A good Queen versus a mediocre one can take them down three times in barely a minute including all respawns. Just like chess, she’s one of the most important pieces in play.
The Queen can also secure drone upgrade stations, allowing your worker to move faster, or wield weapons. The Queen can secure these stations just by touching them, changing them to colour of your team and locking the opposition out from using them entirely. As Queen, you also need to be watching the Snail to make sure that the enemy are not crawling slowly towards victory, as well as killing drones to prevent a loss due to berry stockpiling and avoiding or hunting down the other queen to prevent her doing the same things. Quite the juggling act! As well as a nice sharp blade what you really require as a Queen is eyes in the back of your head.
When playing as a Drone I found myself pondering whether to make a dash for the Snail or upgrade myself to one of the soldier variants and try to defend other members of my team. This leaves out the other option of going for a purely economic win and trying to gain victory in the simplest way – which is so damn simple it can be the best way forward, and is often overlooked until it’s too late. Grass is also something to be avoided at all costs, once you have walked into it you are severely slowed down, making you perfect fodder for a Queen attack.
That’s not to underestimate the potential of the Snail. One player going for the snail while the other two upgrade to soldier variants and purely defend the snail rider with the Queen. Those are just two examples of numerous different ways of playing a round. My mind boggles thinking about all of the different variations in game plans that are possible.
In an early game I saw that an enemy drone was riding the snail and ran to stop him only to be eaten alive. Initially, this was viewed as a mistake, but the time taken for this lumbering gastropod to stop and chow down on my hapless drone body, made all the difference to the outcome of the match. Precious seconds can make all the difference!
Well Versed in Etiquette
The game also features a spectator mode, allowing you to view and watch close matches in realtime. It’s here where I started to notice some of the high level game play on offer here, with players moving at breakneck pace to outplay their opponents. Little things, like using the blade attacks of both the Queen and soldier variants to knock berries out of the play area when they were stockpiled, or throwing berries into the hole to save time. It became very impressive, and indeed, it’s at this higher skill level where you can see the games heart and where it can really shine.
Each match consists of 5 rounds, with the first team to win 3 securing overall victory. There is no greater feeling than being 2 wins down and coming back to win 3-2. Killer Queen Black supports cross-play, so you can play against opponents on multiple platforms and voice chat in enabled by default. The game also features bots, which while easier than human opponents, can occasionally surprise you. The arenas in which you will dual have some nice quirks to them, but arguably there are too few to choose from, being 7 in total. As we understand it, there is intent and desire from the developers to release more maps, in addition to more modifiers for custom matches at some point in the future, but as of yet, there’s no ETA for their arrival.
Guaranteed to blow your mind
It’s fair to say, there’s a lot going on under the hood in Killer Queen Black. The potential here is – just like with Rocket League when it came to Playstation Plus, for Killer Queen Black to be a breakout title on Xbox, and thanks to the population that can immediately access the game via Game Pass, it’s clearly a bet the developers hope will propel the game to new heights.
Killer Queen Black is a brilliant fusion of platforming, combat and strategy, and if you’ve yet to give it a download, you won’t be disappointed if you do. When you find yourself shouting SNAIL! at the top of your lungs, I suspect the game will already have you hooked.
Game Pass is already spoiling its members this year in the indie multiplayer strategy genre and it is only February. Who can guess what is to come?