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ST News Review

Volume 7 Issue 1/ January 11th 1992
Author: Richard Karsmakers

Download ST News Volume 7 Issue 1, Jan. 11th 1992 (728kb)


"I am going to live forever...or die trying!"
Kai Holst

Hell is a pretty rotten place. Not only is it damn hot, but its inhabitants also have a rather deranged sense of humour. Reason enough to try and get out of it, but that tends to be so hard that nobody succeeds and everybody would rather adapt himself to the exotic temperature and odd sense of humour instead.
But not John Doe, full time philanthropist and part time science fiction games designer. Not the John Doe, the person that had never killed but a fly in his entire life, the person that had donated such ludicrously huge amounts of money to orphans and cancer research that his heirs had threatened to sue him. Not John Doe!

Due to a devilish trick of fate, however, some nutcase had put a 9 mm slug between his eyes. Just like that, one happy spring morning on the corner of 11th and Wall Street - speaking of 'being at the wrong place at the wrong time'! While his spirit left his body, gently bobbing above the remains, he saw the gun-wielding hooligan stealing his money and American Express Travellers Cheques.
This would all have been perfectly all right had he taken the right turn after cloud nine. Unfortunately, he hadn't. Whereas he should have followed a traffic sign labelled "Heavenly Bliss and lots of Groovy Peace" he absent-mindedly walked into the direction leading to "Eternal Hellfire, Damnation and Utter Pandemonium".

The first thing he had considered odd was the guardian's costume. Whereas he had expected kind of a light robe and a long beard he saw instead a black goatee, two little horns and a distinctly red complexion.
"Excuse me, sir," John ventured, feeling ill at ease, "Would you be so kind as to announce my arrival at these here Gates of Heaven? I'm Doe. John Doe. Philanthropist and part time science fiction games designer."
The demon (for, as you could have guessed already, it was none less than a demon that sat there) stifled a chuckle, frowned, and casually played with his laser gun.
"Sure," it said, "just go right ahead. Turn left behind the seventh gate."

Mr. Doe was surprised to discover he had unintentionally wandered into Hell, which he only found out after having passed through the seventh gate - a demonic laughter echoed through the archway of gates far behind him. But then it was too late. "There is no way back now, chum," a voice said.
John turned around and found himself looking directly into the metallic eyes of a big red robot. It is a common misconception that Satan looks like a goat that has eaten too much lobster. As a matter of fact, he looks like a big red robot with smoke coming from his nostrils and a large Howitzer laser built into his right arm. John sensed that this had to be the purest kind of evil he would ever meet.

"No...no way out?" he asked, having trouble to get rid of that frog in his throat.
Satan nodded in meaningful silence. "Unless you want to fight the creatures from your own Hell," the Evil One said, making grotesque gestures with his arms, "Monstrous beings contrived by nothing less than your own imagination. Hideous creatures that spill forth death and destruction. Vile machines driven by your own fantasy, impossible to beat. Evil aberrations from the depths of your worst fear-ridden nightmares."

John trembled. A chair appeared from nothing, allowing him to sit down. "W...will I...I...h...have to beat all those?" he stuttered. Satan folded his arms, nodding with his eyes closed.
"But...but...I h...haven't even killed a fly in my life, you know, and now I h...have to fight my way through all those...those dismal monstrosities?"
"Those," Satan replied smugly, "and probably a jolly lot more." It was then that Mr. Doe decided to change his life (well, his death, actually). Gone were the days of peace and quiet. He would get out of this self-styled hell even if he would die trying!


The above would actually have been the official game background novel for the "Lethal Xcess" game had not a last minute decision been made that the game would have to be subtitled "Wings of Death II", entailing an entirely different background that primarily featured the leading character of "Wings of Death" (the first game, by Thalion) - Sagyr the magician.

If you want to read that novel (I can't for the life of my think why you'd want that, but just in case) you'll have to buy the game. Now, I just had a quick introductory novel for this review (ahem).

Just to avoid misunderstanding: "Wings of Death" was programmed by Marc Rosocha at Thalion software. "Lethal Xcess - Wings of Death II" was programmed by Claus Frein and Heinz Rudolf for Marc Rosocha's Eclipse Software.

In the restyled background story of "Lethal Xcess" (a will leave out the subtitle from now on) you are Sagyr the Magician. He is very powerful and very rich. Indeed, his financial state after completing the destruction of Xandrilia (the Wicked Witch of the West) in the prequel enabled him to retire and to live off doing sorcery jobs for the rich and famous.

"All right! All right!
Stop that noise, please! Ladies and gentlemen
we have a very special guest here tonight he hasn't been around for while Maybe for two hundred years or so and he has come here tonight to sit in with the band he has picked up an instrument that is quite uncommon for his age and reputation he is going to introduce himself..."

Sorry. I just felt inspired to do that because of Mads Eriksen's CD that I am listening to while writing this. This tends to be a habit of mine, and I will try to suppress it from now one (at least in this issue of ST NEWS). Let's go on with the show.

One night, Sagyr hears a soft knock on the door. Lots of things happen then, but basically it comes down to him picking up a frog, kissing it, it turning into the reincarnation of Xandrilia (and a rather nude one at that), and it teleporting Sagyr into the cockpit of a post-space-age piece of flying machine in a universe taken over by the Xandrilians (thousands of years later).

I know this background story sounds really incredible (I mean not credible here), but that's it. It's Xandrilia's revenge on Sagyr. Her posterity will take care of his death - unless he beats them on their home planet Methallycha (!).
So here we have you (i.e. Sagyr) in a flying craft, with five stages of Xandrilians' monsters ahead of you.

I liked "Wings of Death" a lot. I played it a lot during its test stages at Thalion, and also when it was finished. Although I reckon I was biased somewhat, I thought "Wings of Death" was the best shoot-'em-up on the ST after "Xenon II". It was playable, it had a great learning curve, it was frustrating, it was difficult. Also, the music was good and the graphics (except for those of level 2) were simply stunning (well, I suppose that's what you get with Erik Simon and Niklas Malmqvist).

It is clear that "Lethal Xcess" continues with the same rules. Just like its prequel, it makes extensive use of blitter and extra memory if found. If you have a Centronics digi music cartridge or an STE it will also make use of its advanced sound features. It also contains five levels you have to fly through horizontally while trying to kill (or be killed). Scrolling pace is the same, and overall production is very similar.

There have, however, been some changes. Of course, the whole thing has totally new graphics. I am amazed by the fact that they look as stunning as they do. They simply look great and very colourful. Animations are smooth as well, and that's when one first tends to think one is playing an arcade machine or something.

The weapon systems have also been revised. They look much more like Megadrive game weapon systems now, and really make it possible to forget the magnificent bolt-on stuff you could attach to your ship in "Xenon II". Collision detection is highly correct - unlike the latter product's. You can have the drone weapon system with up to three or four metal balls flying around you, each firing. You can have the magnificent formation, that really blows everything away like only Japanese arcade games (in their arcade machine version, that is) seem to be able to do nowadays.

And, by God, you're going to need the weapon systems. The enemies are manifold indeed. Not only are there just a whole damn lot of them, they also have lots of different logics and they're really pretty damn mean. Sorry for the damn I use all the time, but it's just a word fit for this occasion.
And then there are the extra weapons. There's some really drool-invoking stuff here, including seekers and hunters that bring games console entertainment and hectic to your home computer for the first time! It gives you a feeling of tremendous satisfaction to blast hell out of them monsters with automatically homing missiles that fly all over the screen, creating loads of explosions. I remember we also wanted them in the original "Wings of Death" but it couldn't be done due to processing time shortage.
Did I mention the explosions? They look great, really. You fly around and blast everything, your trigger finger acheing and your tongue hanging from your mouth, dripping with saliva. Explosions everywhere, things properly flying to bits here and there. Genuinely impressive.
Somehow, the enemy shots are still discernible from the mass of other shapes on the screen. Did I mention the sound effects?
I guess Eclipse's home sound programmer, Jochen Hippel, really outdid himself this time. The sound effects are realistic, aggressive, and of high quality. You find yourself ducking instinctively, afraid that ricochet might hit you. It's a real orgy of sound, monsters and shots that will keep you drooling and blasting away for hours and hours - or until your trigger arm falls off.

Trigger arm? Yes. Even more than its prequel, "Lethal Xcess" cannot be played by holding a joystick in your hand and firing with that hand's thumb while moving with the other hand. No way, Jose. You have to put it down for maximum blasting frequency, using one hand (I use right) to hold the joystick in place and move the ship, and moving the other hand (i.e. left) to fire constantly. Your entire arm grows sore and feels as if it has been disconnected from your body for a while and put in a trash can out in the freezing cold or something.

(Please note that I seldomly use two exclamation marks, but now I did)

"Lethal Xcess" is one of the most challenging blast-'em-ups I have ever played, and I've played quite a few. I never did get around to getting addicted to "Xenon II", but I am addicted to Eclipse's latest.
From the beginning to the end, from the intro with superb music to the game over sequence with battle statistics, it is a game that is excellently produced. It is very difficult and, thus, the right thing for the people who do not scare away from a decent shoot-'em-up.

Enemies that come from behind are indicated by an arrow so that you don't suddenly (and unfairly) get a host of monster up your butt all that easily. Some weapons shoot backward. The game music
is haunting and catchy, the sound effects and monsters logics are brilliant. Things really change within one level; not the endless repetition of a given scheme. It saves hiscores. It's got a demo mode built in. It comes on two disks but you do not have to swap disks once the intro sequence is history. There are three levels
of difficulty: Easy (read: Difficult), Normal (read: Insane) and Lethal (read: Outrageously impossible for anyone but the hardened freak!).
possible on 'lethal' level)!

Need I say more?
Then I consider this case closed. This is a game you will simply have to buy. I would like to emphasise the fact that I have tried not to be biased at all, and I think I have succeeded admirably. It is just an excellent game, and it deserves to be bought. Loading times are almost unbelievably short. It's great. It's difficult (damn hard, even). It's a real, tough challenge. It's damn near perfect! And...(you won't believe this)... It even got me to slam Voivod's "War and Pain" in the CD player. The most ideal album for some severe bashing (last time I took it out was when trying to complete "Gridrunner").

Game rating:

Title:  Lethal Xcess - Wings of Death II
Company:  Eclipse
Value for money: 
Overall Rating: 
Price:  25 quid I s'pose
Hardware:  Any ST with joystick and colour monitor
Remark:  I game like this screams to be played and enjoyed. It's SUPERB.

Thanks a lot to Marc Rosocha for sending me the original, and for allowing me to partake in something as humble as the production of the manual. I really hope this one will sell. It's by far the best blaster I've ever seen and played!

IMPORTANT - note on availability:

As you may know, the non-German press is somewhat hesitant to acknowledge the existence of computer products made by companies who are not raking in dosh. It's sad, but it's a fact. So far, only "Turrican" and "Medusa" had any success, probably because they were backed by huge amounts of aforesaid.
Eclipse does not have such amounts of money, and you may therefore very well not read anything about this game in the non-German press. Do not let this fool you into thinking it is crap.
If this would have been done by Psygnosis of the Bitmaps it would have raced the charts and would have become a legend like "Xenon II". A blaster fanatic who buys this game and feels cheated can unreservedly come down to my place and chop my right arm off. It's really worth while going through some trouble to get it, even. I trust the sending of a note and an International Reply Coupon to Eclipse Software will get you all the details of availability in your country (if any).

(Since Eclipse doesn't sell Lethal Xcess anymore,
 the address has been removed)

©1992 ST News / Richard Karsmakers

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Lethal Xcess aka Wings of Death II a classic shoot'em up for Atari ST(E) and Amiga computers was developed by Claus Frein and Heinz Rudolf, Music by Jochen Hippel, Producer Marc Rosocha.


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All files on the Lethal Xcess Website copyright © 2001 Heinz Rudolf
Lethal Xcess copyright © 1991 Eclipse Software Design.
Wings of Death copyright © 1990 Thalion Software.
ST/Amiga Soundtracks copyright © 1990/1991 Jochen Hippel.
Cybernetics Font copyright © 1991 Jérôme Hubert.
C64 Graphics © 1992 Oliver Lindau
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This page has been updated 10.01.2005