Queeny Army Review: Fan Fiction At Its Worst
I’ve established in the past that I’m really captivated by nostalgia. So whenever I see a game that captures the essence of the titles from the NES, SNES, and original PlayStation eras, I get excited. Especially if said game is trying to emulate one of my favorite hardcore series, Contra. This is why I decided to tackle Queeny Army. It’s like if Contra and Annie got fused together, and on paper, it looked promising. The question this Queeny Army review will strive to answer is whether the actual game lived up to those first impressions.
It’s a Hard Knock Life
I’m sure some of you are still scratching your head about the Annie reference earlier, but rest assured it does fit. Queeny Army is all about a group of unfortunate orphans that get a new lease on life thanks to a kind professor. He takes them in, teaches them, and generally helps provide a glimmer of hope to several young women that were living on the streets. But, unfortunately, it all quickly goes to hell. A corrupt president takes power, and in so doing, starts widening his web of corruption worldwide. One of his loyal acolytes is the powerful San Romero police chief that uses his power to steal and get rich. And in the opening sequence, he not only murders the kind-hearted professor, but sets out to capture and do unspeakable things to the young orphan girls, who are inexplicably referred to as Queeny. Thus, Queeny Army’s adventure begins.
My Country For a Better Screenwriter…
Though the intro gave me some hope for the game, the cracks quickly started to show. While I don’t like sounding like the bad guy here, I can’t ignore the writing in Queeny Army. The premise is fine, but the actual dialogue is amateurish at best. At worst, it sounds like bad fan fiction, with plenty of awkward grammatical moments and some laugh-out-loud exchanges that I’m sure were intended to be dramatic moments. What’s worse is there’s a lot of written content in the game, and it all suffers from the same problems. Of course, none of that would matter much if the gameplay was solid and fun, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.
A Large Cast of Orphans
While I commend the game for featuring a huge roster of playable characters, including 12 orphaned avengers, there’s not much to differentiate them. Sure, each character has a slightly different story arc, but as for how they play, they’re nearly identical. Which is especially unfortunate, since the player select screen seems to indicate they each have a specialty. I never noticed any parameters for the girls varying much, other than possibly which guns they can equip. None of them jumped farther or ran faster. Sadly, the weapon selection is another area the game dropped the ball.
For one thing, it’s tough to tell which weapons you actually have equipped. Each one just has a vague silhouette, followed by a code name of letters and numbers. Just looking won’t really help differentiate them, and what’s worse is you can’t get a quick indication of how powerful each weapon is either. Weapons range from standard machine guns and pistols to strange ones that lob bouncing explosives and even more exotic weaponry. I generally preferred those that just shot straight, since it was hard enough to hit the enemies without worrying about bouncing ammo.
While I can appreciate the ability to switch between two equipped weapons at any time, there’s another issue that complicates things – each weapon other than your pathetically weak default gun has limited ammo. And the only way to get more is to find another duplicate of that weapon. Sadly, there’s a randomness to what weapons you find in crates and oil tanks. Worse, once you find a weapon, it won’t disappear. That may not sound that bad, but I often found multiple weapons at once, and they would randomly bounce back and forth as I tried in vain to pick up the one I actually wanted. And since you equip weapons by touching them, this got to be a hassle rather quickly.
Platforming That Lacks Precision
Once you get past these issues, the gameplay in Queeny Army is okay, but it never flowed really well or hit a confident stride. There’s lots of unnecessary platforming, jumping over spike pits, and avoiding buzz saws. Even the ability to double jump didn’t prevent several unnecessary deaths on my part. The enemies you’ll regularly encounter make things worse since they’re either incompetent or master assassins. Some of them can literally bend bullets to hit you, while others tend to jump around like their ass is on fire hurling explosives. Still, others will get within range and unload like Scarface, which is annoying since they often do this when you don’t have effective weapons on hand. While I don’t mind a good challenge, I like it to be intentional. All the difficulty in Queeny Army felt like the result of poor design. And that goes double for the boss battles.
Giant Pains in the Butt
One of my favorite things about Contra is the intense and horrifying bosses. The manic creativity on display helped complement really complex and strategic battles. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here. For some reason, most bosses are just regular people who are shockingly large in scale. For example, the first boss is a corrupt police chief that looks like he had family reunions with Sasquatch. Much like regular foes, the bosses tend to just do their level best to murder you, but without much in the way of clever patterns. One will just straight up Gatling gun you to death if you don’t constantly bounce around, which made it more than a bit difficult to actually fight that boss. Unfortunately, what should have been a key draw for a game of this genre didn’t do anything to actually elevate it.
Faithfully Retro Visuals
There is one area where I can praise Queeny Army, and that’s the design. While the artwork isn’t going to shock and amaze everyone, it fits the era they’re trying to emulate. And honestly, I have respect for anyone that has the guts to use their own designs in any medium. There’s good color variety, and every level looks different. The sound design isn’t quite as good, but it also didn’t really do anything wrong.
Not Dead Yet
Before we get to the ending, I have to touch on the things Queeny Army did that most hurt it in my estimation. Perhaps the most cardinal sin is there’s never a gameplay tutorial to explain things. While the controls are easy enough to figure out, I kept wondering if perhaps I was missing some integral mechanic. As I said earlier, the game indicates the playable characters have specialties, but maybe it should have dug deeper to explain how those worked. Also, there’s a ridiculously challenging scrolling level that made me want to rage quit repeatedly. These really hurt the game, and made it a chore to review.
I’ll Trade 12 Orphans for Bill and Lance
I was hoping Queeny Army would be a fun retro run and gun adventure. But sloppy design and amateurish storytelling kept it from being anything other than mediocre. What’s painfully ironic is a lot of problems could have potentially been solved if this retro game had some form of in-game instruction booklet to explain things. Without that, though, it’s just a game that I can’t recommend, even for the low price point.
Final Verdict: 2/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, PS5; Publisher: eastasiasoft; Developer: eastasiasoft, AI-Link; Players: 1; Released: January 18, 2022; ESRB: Mature 17+ – Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes; MSRP: $4.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.