Killer Queen Black is tense and thrilling

I recall the moment Killer Queen Black had fully won me over.

It was the third round, both teams closing in on victory. It had been a wild match — all of us jumping between each of the three victory conditions trying to prevent stop one another from getting the advantage. Our team had almost gotten enough berries to snag an economic victory, our opponents closing in on a military win. It was getting tense. The enemy had started hanging around our base, making it harder for us to deliver berries. Earlier I noticed one of my fellow teammates throwing the berries instead of just carrying them in. Didn’t know you could do that (though I might have just missed it in the tutorial). So I started doing it too. Missed on my first couple tries, but then, right as we were one berry away from victory, the enemy almost locking down our base completely, I toss another berry and it lands right in its socket, securing us a win. It felt incredible.

Moments like that are what make Killer Queen Black exciting. Clutch victories stolen from the other team at the last second. Tense clashes where everyone is just narrowly avoiding death. Or complete and utter chaos as everyone spreads out trying to throw each other off. It’s a busy game sometimes, but always a thrilling one.

If you haven’t heard of Killer Queen before, that’s understandable. Despite kicking around since 2013, it was only released in arcades, making it a tough find. Killer Queen Black, developed by Liquid Bit in collaboration with BumbleBear (the folks behind the original arcade game), is the first time the game’s made its way to console and PC. The basic pitch is two teams of four — made up of one queen and three workers — compete to fulfill one of three victory conditions in a first to three format: economy, which is won by collecting enough berries and ferrying them back to your base; military, achieved by killing the opposing team’s queen three times; or snail, which involves riding a snail toward your team’s goal.The workers do most of the heavy lifting: berry collection, riding the snail to your team’s goal, fighting off members of the other team to keep the queen safe, and so on. They’re the backbone of a good team, basically. Queens on the other hand, have one job: protect the workers and kill the opposing team. They’re fast and powerful, able to attack quickly and decisively. They’re also extremely vulnerable due to only having three lives.

As such, Killer Queen emphasizes teamwork and communication. Through either voice chat, the helpful ping system (for those who don’t want to chat with randos), or some combination thereof you need to be working in concert to excel at Killer Queen. Just running off doing your own thing won’t do any good. You have to read the situation and decide how best to act. If both teams are engaged in combat, maybe it’d be a good idea to grab some berries to get closer to an economy win, just in case, or hop on the snail and see how far you can move while everyone’s distracted. If all the workers are focused on berry collection or riding the snail, maybe one or two should grab a berry and upgrade themselves into a combat role and help keep the queen safe.

Ideally, you and your teammates would prioritize a particular victory — say, focus on collecting berries while queen keeps the other team preoccupied. In practice, matches devolve into chaos that involves working toward each type of victory until a victory emerges. That’s not to say there’s no strategy at all — just that, despite your best efforts to stay coordinated, there’s so much going on and to keep track of that it’s gonna feel like total chaos. It works to Killer Queen‘s advantage, however, as it can provide the perfect cover to quietly sneak a win.

Case in point: in one round I played, my team had made a run on the snail and focused our efforts on protecting each other to ensure victory. For a time, it worked. The opposing team had spent a lot of time trying to stop us because we had been successfully repelling them. If they managed to stop us, it wasn’t for long. Eventually, they did overwhelm us and we had to regroup, leaving the snail just short of the goal. The other team won soon after. How? Because while we all were busy with the snail, one of the workers on the other team had been quietly collecting berries, securing an economy victory. We were all so preoccupied with the snail that we didn’t even notice. It was an incredible play. Those sorts of moments happened a fair bit in my experience. For every round that ends in a quick military victory, there’s plenty others that go for a while and require you to pull out all the stops to succeed.

Killer Queen Black is primarily focused on online multiplayer, with the usual suite of ranked and casual matchmaking, though you can also play locally. It should be noted, however, that for local eight player matches, you’ll need two copies of the game running on two PCs and playing a private match or two Switches via local wireless or LAN with four players on each one. I assume there’s a reason why they couldn’t have all eight players on a single platform, but it’s disappointing all the same. You can still play with three other friends on the same platform and go online together, though.

If you’ve heard about Killer Queen before and are curious about all the hubbub, Killer Queen Black is an excellent way to play. Its fantastic blend of strategy and action make for a deeply entertaining multiplayer game. While the means of playing locally with a full crew unfortunately require some work, if you can get eight players together, whether it be online or off, you’re definitely in for a good time.

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