With its initial reveal during this year’s E3 2018 by Nintendo, Killer Queen Black is a title that may have flown a bit under the radar for many as the follow-up to a beloved arcade hit, myself included. However, after having gotten to play a bit of the title hands-on, Killer Queen Black is certainly a title that I’ll be looking forward to playing with friends for some time to come, and is definitely worth keeping an eye on before its release.
During this weekend’s Play NYC in New York, I got to play a few matches of Killer Queen Black and see firsthand what the arcade-style party game will deliver this winter to PC and Switch players. While I’ve never played the original arcade game that Black will be reimagining, I’m very happy to say that I’m glad to see what all the buzz behind the game has been about (sorry for the pun).
To give a bit of background, Killer Queen Black is a newly-remade version of Killer Queen, a 10-player arcade game that debuted in 2013 and found its way through numerous arcades around the US. As the first iteration of the game to be released outside of arcades, Killer Queen Black largely translates the experience of the original game with some noteworthy tweaks and additions like online multiplayer, new weapons and items, enhanced visuals, and a change in player count from 10 players to 8 players.
The core gameplay of Killer Queen Black revolves around two teams of four players claiming victory in each match by achieving one of three win conditions; either killing the opposing team’s Queen three times, using the worker bees to collect a certain amount of berries around the map, or by hopping onto a slowly-moving giant snail until it reaches the finish line. To accomplish these goals and win the match, each four-person team is comprised of a Queen (who wields a deadly weapon to take out enemy players) and three worker bees, who can each morph into different classes to assist and protect the Queen or complete tasks to win the match.
While it might take a few matches for the core gameplay loop of Killer Queen Black to make sense, once you get the hang of its win conditions and the different characters at your disposal, Killer Queen Black is a game that will definitely be hard to put down. Like the best party-style multiplayer games, it’s an experience that will certainly be accessible enough for players to pick up and play fairly easily, but through subsequent matches it’s easy to see how the game’s deeper strategies and play styles will continue to evolve.
In a lot of ways, Killer Queen Black very much reminded me of the arcade classic Joust, though each subsequent match that I played (along with trying out the different characters) showed me that there’s a ton of potential for players to really go deeper into the game’s mechanics. With each match being only around a few minutes each, it’s easy enough to hop into Killer Queen Black and get immediate satisfaction.
With its roots coming from an arcade experience, playing the game in the same room with friends really feels like where the game will shine in a party setting, though the ability to play online will still give the chance to experience the game in its best light. Playing solo will also also be an option with the game’s final release, but I’d say that it’s at least worth playing once with friends or other players to get the game’s full experience.
As far as the moment-to-moment experience of Killer Queen Black, what really drew me to it the most was the fast-paced gameplay that is certainly chaotic, but in a controlled, exciting way. Having gotten to play a couple matches as both the queen and the worker bee, the different roles for each player provide an engaging way for each player to contribute as part of the team, and each of the different win conditions allow for each team to employ wildly different strategies to reach the same endgame.
When playing as the Queen, I came to realize the fact that while her speed and abilities allow her to be deadly–which encouraged me to play a bit aggressively–it’s incredibly easy to lose sight of the fact that it only takes three kills as her for the team to lose everything. As a result, I loved the back and forth at play between hunting down the opposing team’s Queen and going in for the kill, but at the same time having to restrain myself to avoid getting defeated on my own and risk losing the entire match.
Compared to the fast-paced nature of playing as the Queen, the worker bees provide an opportunity for players to be a bit more flexible in their role within the team. The basic worker bees have little in the way of defending themselves from the enemy’s Queen, but by utilizing stations on the map that can morph them into new forms, players can choose to either take on a more offensive role to help kill the opposing Queen, or to be more defensive by protecting your own Queen and worker bees. Between their goals of either collecting berries or riding the giant sail to victory, the worker bees and their numerous different forms and abilities make them just as interesting and dynamic as playing as the Queen within each match’s fast pace.
Though a large portion of gamers are likely to be unfamiliar with the game that didn’t get a chance to experience it in arcades, what I’ve played of Killer Queen Black already has me convinced that it’s a game worth keeping an eye on as it nears release. With its compelling blend of intense (but fun) multiplayer gameplay and an experience that feels perfectly suited to playing with friends, Killer Queen Black is already addicting enough that I’ll eagerly be looking forward to hopping back in for round after round.
Killer Queen Black will release for Nintendo Switch and PC in early 2019.