Stick it to The Man with Queeny Army

It’s been a real delight to see the resurgence of classic game genres over the course of the last decade or so as the modern digital indie scene has really come into its own. Genres once thought “dead” — such as the run-and-gun platformer — are once again alive and well, and we’re getting a steady stream of great new titles to enjoy like Queeny Army, a new console release from publisher eastasiasoft and Mexican developer Lemoon Pie Games.

Like many of eastasiasoft’s other recent console titles, Queeny Army originated as an indie PC game — in this case dating back to 2019. Sadly, the game seemed to pass mostly unnoticed in its original PC incarnation; in the little over two years since its original release, it’s only garnered seven reviews on Steam, so it’s fortunate that it’s now getting a second chance on PlayStation and Switch.

Queeny Army

Queeny Army tells the story of a group of homeless girls collectively known as Queeny. They came together under the tutelage of the benevolent Professor Gonzales, who took them in and sheltered them in his college in the belief that those rejected by today’s society would actually be its future. The girls became close friends with one another and swore to protect and support one another — an oath that would be put to the test when the corrupt chief of police attacked the college in the hope of looting it for its valuables.

Gonzales and all the male students were murdered, and the corrupt cops decided that they were going to have some fun with the girls who remained. Foolishly believing that they wouldn’t face any resistance from what they believed to be a bunch of normal college girls, they put their weapons aside and prepared to get down to some serious sexual assault. What they didn’t count on was the resourcefulness of Queeny — recognising that they were in danger, one of the girls managed to sneak in and steal the cops’ weapons so that they could protect themselves while escaping.

From thereon, they encounter a mysterious shadowy figure and apparent former commander of the country’s corrupt government named Eiji, and together resolve to do their best to fulfil Professor Gonzales’ dream — to be the future the world in which they live deserves rather than the mess it is currently in.

Queeny Army

Queeny Army’s plot is a little clumsily handled — the introduction of Eiji in particular gives it a bit of a “teenage fantasy fanfic” feel to it — but in many ways this simply adds to the game’s old-school charm. While the game’s visuals are arguably intended to evoke more of a 16-bit feel (despite marketing material referring to them as “8-bit”), the style of the pixel-art cutscenes is rather reminiscent of classic early attempts to make story-centric games on NES such as Ninja Gaiden and Wrath of the Black Manta — cheesiness and all.

And these scenes certainly provide some context for the action — rather pleasingly, they also vary according to which of the twelve playable characters you choose as your main heroine. It’s perhaps worth noting that the tone of the narrative carries a strong anti-authority (and particularly anti-police) sentiment — to such a degree that the police in the game are exclusively depicted as brutal wannabe rapists — though this is nothing unusual for a game like this; the idea of a corrupt police force is a common theme in any game involving action that is “on the streets”.

Once into the action in Queeny Army, things unfold as a side-scrolling run-and-gun, blending elements of games like Metal Slug with the precise platforming of Ninja Gaiden — the girls even have Hayabusa’s wall jump ability, allowing you to ascend vertical surfaces with proper timing.

Queeny Army

Queeny Army’s controls are snappy and intuitive and the pace of the game is quick — those accustomed to classic NES games may actually find the speed of things to be uncomfortably fast initially, but you’ll soon adjust to it. The action is fluid and feels good to play; it’s rare that you encounter a situation where you feel the game’s mechanics and controls are fighting against you, particularly once you master techniques like double-jumping and holding the right trigger to lock yourself in position while you aim in different directions, Metroid-style.

Each girl has her own distinctive starting weapon, though this is quickly replaced by one of the many pickups concealed in barrels around the level. These collectible weapons all have limited ammunition, and run the gamut from several different types of rapid-fire machine gun to grenade launchers and sniper rifles.

All can be effective if used properly, though the different major types handle markedly differently from one another. At the same time, though, there are some whose functionality feels pretty much identical to one another aside from the colour of the bullets they shoot and their sound effects.

A bit of an issue with the weapons is that they’re all given names that are presumably intended to sound authentic, but which do not make it at all clear what weapon they actually are. This means you end up having to remember either the weapon names or the distinctive colours of their icons rather than simply being able to identify them from a glance at a silhouette or icon.

It’s not a major issue by any means — particularly with how frequently you’ll end up swapping weapons — but if you find yourself in situation where, say, one of the machine guns would be useful and you end up picking up a grenade launcher, it can sometimes be a bit of a pain to get that machine gun back in your hand.

Queeny Army

This caveat aside, Queeny Army’s weapons are varied, interesting and very satisfying to use. The shotgun-style weapon in particular has a pleasing amount of power and throws enemies back a significant distance, often allowing you to defeat foes in a single hit; conversely, the rapid-fire weapons have their own sense of satisfaction, too, typically allowing you to rip through large groups of enemies one at a time.

There are only six stages in Queeny Army, though there are multiple difficulty levels and the individual stages are very long — arguably a bit too long to be comfortable. While there are multiple checkpoints throughout each level, it would perhaps have felt a bit more manageable for the larger stages to be split into discrete substages. This would aid with learning the game, which would be especially useful for those wishing to speedrun it.

That said, Queeny Army doesn’t punish you too harshly for failure; continuing after a Game Over on normal difficulty simply costs you 5,000 points from your score, and on the easiest difficulty you have infinite lives, so you don’t have to worry about this at all. You are, however, reset back to your last checkpoint (or the beginning of the stage if you didn’t reach one) so you can’t simply “brute force” your way through the game as a whole — this is, I’m inclined to say, a good thing, as it means you still have to prove your skill to a certain degree if you want to see the ending.

Queeny Army

The game’s boss fights are well handled, featuring simple pattern-recognition exercises that allow you to unload in your foe’s faces once you figure out how to dodge their various attacks. If anything, the weapons are a little unbalanced for these encounters, since the grenade launcher-style weapons can often flatten a foe in just three or four shots, whereas bullet-based weaponry demands something of a more protracted battle.

Queeny Army presents a stiff challenge. It’s perhaps not quite as brutally hard as the developers tried to position it as on its original PC release, but it does provide an authentically challenging retro-style experience that nicely captures the feel of NES games in particular. It has an endearingly sort of “home-grown” feel to it thanks to a few rough edges on the character art in particular, but this just helps to distinguish it from big-budget titles and make it clear that this very much was one man’s passion project.

All this, when combined with the deliberately old-school design elements — including some delightfully cheesy “Mobile Light Force”-style cover art — makes for a game with a pleasingly distinctive feel that is worth spending some time with.

Queeny Army is available now for PS4/5 and Switch, as well as via its original PC release.

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Pete Davison
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