ST News Review
Volume 7 Issue 1/ January 11th 1992
Author: Richard Karsmakers
ST SOFTWARE REVIEW: LETHAL XCESS - WINGS OF DEATH II - BY ECLIPSE
"I am going to live forever...or die trying!"
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
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
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
"Sure," it said, "just go right ahead. Turn left behind the
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
"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
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
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
THAT'S WHAT A SHOOT-'EM-UP SHOULD DO FOR ME!!
(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
of difficulty: Easy (read: Difficult), Normal (read: Insane) and Lethal (read:
Outrageously impossible for anyone but the hardened freak!).
AND THERE'S EVEN A SIMULTANEOUS TWO-PLAYER MODE (be it only
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").
||Lethal Xcess - Wings of Death II
|Value for money:
||25 quid I s'pose
||Any ST with joystick and colour monitor
||I game like this screams to be played and enjoyed. It's
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)
News / Richard Karsmakers