Developer: Liquid Bit, BumbleBear Games
Publisher: Liquid Bit
Review Context: I love real-time strategy multiplayer games and arcade-style experiences that are easy to drop in and out of games for plenty of fun. This is my first time being exposed to the Killer Queen universe.
Date of Playthrough: October 2019
PC Specs Game Played on:
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM) i3 CPU 540 @ 3.07GHz
RAM: 8 GB
Video Card: GeForce GTX 950 2GB GDDR5 ACX 2.0 SC+
Disclosure: This review is based off of a review copy.
Killer Queen Black, developed by Liquid Bit in conjunction with BumbleBear Games, is a fast-paced, real-time strategy multiplayer game that is inspired and based off of an arcade game, Killer Queen. Killer Queen is an arcade game I personally had never heard of, but it was premiered by BumbleBear Games in 2013 at New York University’s fourth annual “No Quarter” exhibition for indie arcade games. I have to admit, it’s weird playing a game based off of a very recently released arcade because I am used to most of the memorable arcade experiences being in the 1990s. After researching and learning that Killer Queen has a competitive scene of teams traveling across the United States competing in tournaments with over 100 arcade cabinets in circulation is just jaw-dropping impressive to me. So after learning the background of Killer Queen myself, it wasn’t shocking that a company (Liquid Bit) would want to bring an inspired new version to a wider gaming audience.
The Killer Queen Black experience feels exactly like an arcade experience because the individual stage rounds within a best out of five match set usually takes less than a couple minutes, which on paper reads like a breakneck speed for a match, yet it still is packed with strategy and enjoyment. In Killer Queen Black you play in a team 4v4 format, with someone playing as the queen on each team, while the rest of the teammates play as workers. There are three different victory conditions; Military, Economic, and Snail. To achieve a military victory the opponent’s queen needs to be killed three times, which can happen either by your own team’s queen or by a worker that has grabbed a weapon. An economic victory is when workers collect and successfully bring back a certain amount of berries to fill up their home hive. A snail victory is when a worker rides the snail from the middle starting position of the map back to their base. These three win conditions help make matches fly by quickly, and each role within the team can be very valuable. While the queen has much more responsibility, workers are very flexible. I love the fact that I can choose to grab a weapon if I want to take a stab at the opponent’s queen, in which the combat can be very cat-mouse across the stage, or cause paranoia and bait the opponent by riding the snail.
As new player, since there is so much strategy going on in the game at a rapid pace, it has to broken down to really put it all together to stand a chance. Thankfully, Liquid Bit did a really excellent job putting together a tutorial that walks you through all the roles and win conditions to get you to understand it as quick as possible. Given that this is a multiplayer game, players will want to communicate and at least for the Steam version voice chat is automatically enabled, but can be turned off. There is a way to use preset alerts if you aren’t using a mic, but the tutorial doesn’t walk you through that with AI using alerts to you or vice versa, which is a mistake to me for this kind of game. Although keyboard and mouse can be used, I used a wired Xbox 360 controller and the controls are very tight and good, but mastering flying and attacking with the queen or worker in a competitive setting will certainly take practice.
Killer Queen Black is currently packed and will eventually be stacked full of features for a robust and sustaining multiplayer game. At launch, the game will feature cross-platform matchmaking between PC and Switch, with the Xbox version being released later and available through Game Pass. One of the highest priorities after launch is party cross-platforming, which is where I feel I the game will take off. It’s also great that the game supports local party matchmaking, so you can have your friends over and play against others online. Although quick play and custom Matches exist, ranked play will likely be the best part of the game moving forward, as you will get placement matches and be placed in a league based on your skill level. Don’t worry if you prefer only playing a certain role, because before you queue up you can select Queen, Worker, or Either as your role preference. I’m also very impressed by the stats for your profile, as it keeps track of win percentages with specific roles, kills, and other data. Your goal in ranked play is to not only be the best, but try to become the “Black team,” which is a special status only one team can have in which they are given special outfits and can be dethroned after one match. The game already includes a spectator mode where you can watch random matches, but eventually a Black team specific stream will eventually be added so you can always keep track of them. I personally think the whole Black team idea is really cool and innovative for a player experience to constantly stay engaged and motivated within the game.
There is so much I like about Killer Queen Black because each round is full of adrenaline and quick-paced acion that there is no downtime. If you get killed by an enemy you immediately respawn and get back into action, which is what contributes to the chaos. Still, in my short time, I was able to figure out some of the tiny strategies to keep me motivated to keep playing. What I love is that each role has their own abilities and synergizes well with the other roles. Even though some of the games were with bots mixed in due to the low player base pre-launch, it was still a fun experience. Being the queen is a responsibility in itself with a big target on you, because the queen needs to tag gates for the workers to successfully get a weapon or power up, while also avoiding death. As a real-time strategy fan and Starcraft player, I noticed immediately the layouts of the maps and what victory strategies are easier than others, which is the other dimension of the competitive experience. Each map has a different layout and will force you to play differently.
Killer Queen Black is tough to sell with words, but easy to convince you once you’ve played because you will not want to put it down. This is such a different multiplayer gaming experience, unlike any other game I’ve played. I spent so much of this review discussing the gameplay, that I almost overlooked the jamming soundtrack that will get your blood flowing the moment you fire up the game. From the moment you load the game, you will notice the dedication of Liquid Bit in making this a fulfilling and long-lasting multiplayer game with all the options in front of you. Whether you play as the the queen or a worker, you will have fun no matter what. It’s now apparent to me how Killer Queen became a successful arcade game, as I know I would be out of quarters if that arcade cabinet was in front of me! I can’t wait to play a ton of Killer Queen Black in the future, as this not only my favorite multiplayer game of 2019, but one of my favorite games of 2019 overall.
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