Lethal Xcess - Eclipse

Lethal Xcess

Eclipse - Amiga - 1991

Reviewed by Alex Vormbrock (a.k.a. Herr Schatten).

It's quite surprising that a powerful machine like the Amiga sported so very few decent vertical scrollers. Only 'Battle Squadron', 'Xenon II' (which is overrated, but still brilliant) and 'Wings of Death' instantly spring to mind. Lethal Xcess is the official sequel to WoD which, besides being one of my personal all-time favourites, kicked some serious butt. Unfortunately, you can't say the same about the follow-up.

The gameplay is pretty much the same as in Wings of Death, but for all those who have never played it, I will describe it here. Lethal Xcess is a vertically scrolling shmup, obviously. You control a surprisingly huge spaceship through five levels. If you have a second player at hand, both of you can play simultaneously. Unfortunately, the difficulty level is automatically set to 'lethal' in 2P mode, which means that your 2P games will be quite short, because you die so very often.

There's a variety of six different weapons with five powerups each: Triangle, rear gun, laser, twisting fireballs, wiper and drones. The wiper and the triangle weapons were in WoD, too, but the remaining four are new. Sadly, only two of the six weapon systems are actually usable. The firing rates of the laser and the twisting fireballs are much too slow, the drones are just not strong enough and the wiper (which was very powerful in WoD) only moves in stupid patterns, thus being completely useless. It's a good idea to stick to the wide-spread triangle weapon or the powerful rear gun most of the time. Weapon systems are powered up by collecting more than one symbol of the same kind. If you collect a different symbol, you switch to that weapon and the power level is set to one (Aleste-style). Additionally, there are speed ups, autofire symbols, smart bombs and temporarily lasting special weapons to be collected. A skull symbol acts as some kind of anti-extra. It brings your current weapon down to power level one and drains your life meter. Interestingly, the credits, which enable you to continue the game after you lost all ships, are also extras that have to be collected.

The easiest way to show the strengths and weaknesses of Lethal Xcess is to compare it to its predecessor. I already mentioned the bad new weapons. The choice of weapons was much better in WoD. Picking a weapon in WoD meant that your ship morphed into a different shape. The more powerful your weapon, the bigger the player's sprite. This added a nice tactical aspect to the gameplay mechanics, which is missing in LX altogether. In comparison to WoD, the controls are a bit sluggish, but that's something you soon get used to.

Technically, LX is impressive. The screen is big, the scrolling smooth (even on an Atari ST) and there's always tons of sprites on the screen. Usually, if you say that Amiga and ST versions of a game are identical, it means that the Amiga version uses only half of the colours available. In the case of LX, however, it means that the Atari ST actually displays more colours than it is capable of. I don't know how that trick works, but it really looks astonishing. The only difference between the Amiga and ST versions is the music which sounds better on the Amiga.

The graphics are very colourful, but often lack style. That's all I can say about them. Artistically, WoD was much more advanced.

The music, once again done by Jochen Hippel, is the best about Lethal Xcess. The tunes sound excellent and are very memorable, too.

The point where Lethal Xcess falls short is the level design. The stages are awful. There's no structure, no learning curve whatsoever. A higher level just means that more enemies attack at the same time, not that their attack waves become smarter. Most of the time, the screen is very crowded and there's plenty of unfair scenes were death is simply unavoidable. I hate something like this. To take stupidity to a new maximum, your weapon's power level is set to one at the beginning of each new stage. This makes this already tough game almost unplayable.

The bosses are another point that knocks the game down. With the exception of the very last one, the bosses look incredibly stupid and their attack patterns are dull. Dull, dull, dull. Did I mention that they are dull? Three of the five bosses actually behave the same. Those bosses just move around a bit and shoot some poorly aimed bullets. Even 'Astro Warrior' had better bosses. (Saying this is not much of a compliment.)

It's a shame that an excellent game like Wings of Death has such a poor follow-up. But that's just the way it is.


Just like its predecessor, Lethal Xcess starts in some sort of castle. Considering the size of my ship, it must be a pretty huge building. I bet it's rather time-consuming to keep it tidy. Luckily I came along in order to wipe out some of the vermin.

In this picture you can see two of the skull extras. If picked up, they drain your energy and reduce your current weapon to power-level one.


The end of level one is guarded by this ...thing. I have absolutely no idea what it is supposed to be. I don't think I have ever seen a boss this silly before. Destroy its eyes and horns seperately, then blow the whole thing to pieces.


Level two is a desert stage reminiscent of Commando. It contains the first few unfair scenes of the game.


If you thought the boss of the first level looked awfully bad, have a look at this one!

Interestingly, this skull does absolutely nothing until you hit him first. After that, he starts to fight back. His attacks are pretty uninspired, though. He just moves back and forth in a sine pattern and shoots some bullets. Boring to look at and very easy to dodge.


We get to see nice and colourful graphics in level three. Some of the flowers look suspiciously similar to the ones found in level two of Wings Of Death.

You can see me using the very powerful homing missiles here. Unfortunately, they last only temporarily. As you can easily see, there are seven seconds left.


Obviously, Lethal Xcess tries to set up a record for 'highest number of exceptionally silly bosses in a single shmup'. (Actually, it's only four of them, but their sillyness is intense.) I have no other explanation for this pig/bug-crossbreed. Additionally, it behaves EXACTLY like the skull from level two, thus trying to bore us to death.

Once the boss is defeated, some maggots come crawling out of the corpse and attack. Nice try, folks, but that doesn't quite spice it up.


Level four looks a lot like Dragon Spirit revisited, but has prettier graphics. Due to the many big flying rocks, which split up into smaller ones when hit, it plays more like a vertically scrolling Asteroids


At the end of the stage, a rather skinny gargoyle tries to offend us by exposing his buttocks. Take a look at his face: He's a close relative to the previous boss. Sadly, his attack patterns are likewise familiar.


At first, level six continues the theme of the previous stage.


However, it soon changes into some sort of space base. The graphics are pretty well done, actually. Unfortunately, the game becomes so very unfair that it's no fun to play anymore.


Surprisingly, the last boss is very good. Not only does he look decent, he also has a couple of very interesting attacks. First he chases you around the screen shooting fireballs from the side cannons and lots of small bullets from the center one. After the cannons are destroyed, he goes mad and unleashes truckloads of projectiles in our direction. Eventually, his head flies off and moves around the screen while gear parts fall out of the damaged body. I wish the previous bosses were as imaginative as this one.

I recently found out that one of the programmers is actually working on a renewed version of the game for Amiga and Atari ST. He plans to add in an additional level zero as well as a better ending sequence. He also considers porting LX to Windows PCs and the Gameboy Advance.

If you want to learn more about Lethal Xcess (and its promising, yet unfinished follow-up 'Dragonworld'), check out the official LX homepage - Alex


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie