Killer Queen Black (Switch) Review

by October 10, 2019

If you’ve been lucky and/or American enough to have a run at the arcade version of Killer Queen, you’re likely getting pretty excited getting into this review. Most likely though you’re in my shoes and this is your first foray into the bee-themed eSports title: Killer Queen Black will be the first release for the game outside of the original, massive 10-player arcade cabinet. In eSports and competitive gaming circles the game has developed a cult following, with hype being drummed up via a trailer in June’s Nintendo Direct and a beta for the PC version earlier this year. Well, the time has come and the game is out, why don’t we take a look at what Killer Queen Black has to offer?

Your first stop is going to be the tutorial. Killer Queen is a fairly complex game, and the quick lessons it runs are well put together and definitely essential. This version is scaled back 2 players from the arcade edition and runs as a 4v4 match, with three players on each team playing drones and one player as the titular queen. Drones can collect berries and take them back to the hive, or ride a snail along a path along the bottom of the level – filling the hive or reaching the finish line will result in a victory for your team!

Drones can also enter one of several gates in the level to become a warrior drone and gain the ability to fly and take out enemy players, at the expense of being able to collect any berries or mount any mollusc steeds. Queens are effectively a more powerful warrior drone, but if your team’s queen is taken out by enemy combatants more than three times then that’s a victory for the opposition. Queens can also prevent opposing drones from becoming warriors by tagging the level’s gates with their team’s colour. Whew, I’m sure I mentioned it was fairly complex – definitely get on the tutorial, as it runs through each of these concepts separately and you’ll need a handle on all the moving parts to get going on the game properly.

A quick aside before we get into a game proper – those not subscribed to Nintendo Switch Online can check out right here. There’s no cushy story mode or any such novelties here: this is a fast, tight eSports-focused game that’s laser focused on online multiplayer. There is offline local multiplayer functionality, but you’ll need two Switches each with the game installed as there’s no option for offline competition on a single switch. You can play an online custom match with up to 3 extra people and have AI take over the additional roles, so you’re not completely prevented from playing against people in the same room, but everything takes place on one 2D plane and there’s no reason this shouldn’t support offline 4v4 on a single system a la Smash Ultimate. Or even 2v2 with AI. It limits a lot of party game potential this may have had, and strikes me as an odd decision.

This aside, Killer Queen Black has one of the most complete online modes available on any Switch game. Voice chat with push-to-talk is natively supported and nigh on essential for team coordination, but for those unwilling or unable there is a very robust ping system which can communicate essential information with a quick button press. Connections seem to be nice and stable so far, and you can easily create your own custom match with your Switch friends (and fill out any extra slots with bots). There’s also full playtime and performance tracking, plus leaderboards if you’re into Ranked matches, although if you just want some quick fun there’s quick play as well. It makes systems like Splatoon 2’s just seem absolutely archaic and it’s great to see some more mature online put-togethers on the Switch.

Ok, we’ve had some review faux-narrative distractions, but now let’s jump into an actual game. I’m gonna abandon any will-it-be-good build up here in favour of just straight up saying that every match is exhilarating, thrilling and an absolute joy to play. The constant push-and-pull between the three main objectives is so much fun to be a part of, with many matches coming down to the wire on multiple fronts, highlighted by the dramatic zoom and guitar fanfare as someone makes the winning move. Constantly balancing your duty as Queen to aggressively hunt down enemies with your need to stay conservative to avoid dying too often and throwing the whole match is great fun, but it never feels like you’re missing out when playing a drone, where your timing and dodging skills, and your decision making on objectives can affect the feel and outcome of the whole match. If two warriors or queens strike at the same time, they’ll bounce off each other, and this combined with the various weapons a warrior can possess (guns, flails, swords) and the Queen’s quicker movements almost give combat interactions a fighting game feel. Each match is a first-team-to-three-wins situation, so even if you perform terribly in one round you never feel like you’ve lost. There’s always hope. Look, this is so fun I sat down several times to take screenshots for this review and then immediately forgot to do that and just played the game instead.

Should I rave a little more? Get on board here. The art style is great, with meticulously designed pixel art that’s easily readable and super clear even in fast and intense situations – you’ll never be unsure if you picked up a berry or if you’ve received a speed powerup as the silhouette work is perfect. There’s six maps each with a cool unique aesthetic and their own strategies to adapt to to keep things fresh. The soundtrack evolves to match how the round is progressing, and the heavy drum work and electric guitars really add to the tension.

Possibly the only complaint I can think of is you’ll really, really notice when you hit a patch of lag – it only happened to me very occasionally, but with everything being organised so tightly if you lose a few frames to a dodgy internet connection it really throws off the flow of the game. You can also create a custom match with yourself and all bots for a quick dress rehearsal before the big Ranked show (or, there’s no people to match with, you’ll get this in quick play, which very nicely keeps you playing without interruption). It would be nice to have this as an option for offline single player, but given the game’s huge multiplayer focus I can forgive having to be online for it. 

If you couldn’t tell by this point, I love Killer Queen. I had no trouble getting into it and I know there’s so much to learn in terms of strategies and gameplay styles that I could never be done with it. Everything plays super tight and nearly every match I played gave me those Good Sports Endorphins that come with a down-to-the-wire struggle. Play this one. You’ll have a good time. 

Rating: 4.5 / 5

The Good

+ Tense competition
+ Great online setup
+ Polished gameplay

The Bad

- No offline single-system multiplayer
- Lag can ruin your day

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Final Thoughts

If you couldn’t tell by this point, I love Killer Queen. I had no trouble getting into it and I know there’s so much to learn in terms of strategies and gameplay styles that I could never be done with it. Everything plays super tight and nearly every match I played gave me those Good Sports Endorphins that come with a down-to-the-wire struggle. Play this one. You’ll have a good time.

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About The Author
Ben Szabadics
Former child, current RPG & puzzle game obsessive. Terrible at social media.

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