"I am going to live forever...or die trying!"
ST SOFTWARE REVIEW: LETHAL XCESS - WINGS OF DEATH II - BY ECLIPSE
by Richard Karsmakers
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 filantropist 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
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
The first thing he had considered odd was the guardian's
costume. Wheras 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. Filantropist 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
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-
John trembled. A chair appeared from nothing, allowing him to
"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
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.
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
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 magnificant bolt-on stuff you could attach
to your ship in "Xenon II". Collission 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 fireing. 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
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
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
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
THAT'S WHAT A SHOOT-'EM-UP SHOULD DO FOR ME!!
(Please note that I seldomly use two exclamation marks, but now
"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
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
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
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").
Title: Lethal XCess - Wings of Death II
Value for money: 9
Overall rating: 9+
Price: 25 quid I s'pose
Hardware: Any ST with joystick and colour
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 shop 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).
Versmolder Str. 41
D-4802 Halle (Westf.)
Tel. ++49-5201-16989 (that's international)
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.