Wings Of Death was one of the more underrated shoot'em-ups of a year or so ago which was no doubt adored by those it struck a particular chord with. It was no surprise then that a sequel should emerge from the swamps of time, coming only in the form of a different software publisher.
Rather than taking the usual form of a space blaster, Wings Of Death had an Icarus style hero who used his powers to help him fly out of a most terrible prison related situation. Lethal Xcess has discarded this for a more conventional approach in terms of the use of a spacecraft as the 'hero' in the game, whilst retaining the more terrestrial feel to the actual gameplay.
For those unfamiliar with the basic idea behind the original, the plan was essentially to blast the hell out of everything that moved on the vertically scrolling screen. Not exactly a novel concept to say the least but one which worked to really rather excellent effect.
The shoot'em-up is one of the archetypal types of game on any computer system, yet there have been few quality games of the genre to emerge within the last year - Project-X and Apidya being the notable exceptions. So, the time for a top class blaster is well and truly upon us, and no doubt Grandslam are hoping to exploit the considerable gap in the market.
So how good is Lethal Xcess? Obviously the game concept is not new, but what the hey, no-one ever said the shoot'em-up was original (except, perhaps, the inventor of Space Invaders). No, originality is not necessary to make Lethal Xcess a must buy, so the rest of it all will have to be pretty sturdy in the old quality department.
The graphics are pretty good or the whole. A great menagerie of odd creatures and baddies to contend with do their utmost to destroy you before you destroy them (which seems fair enough really) so you must really be on your mettle if you're to avoid getting fried, frazzled and generally left up the creek without so much as a canoe, let alone a paddle. The backgrounds are also most pleasing to the eye - plenty of variety within the levels without bring so busy that it becomes too damn hard to see what you have to shoot at. You must blast your way out of the Ruins Of Methallycha, through to the treacherous Desert Of No Return from which you must hack your way through The Evil Garden and onto the barren wastes of the Vulcanic Plateaus. You face the final challenge in the Fortress Of Methallycha where it is always death or glory (and usually the former!).
The sound is similarly pretty solid in Lethal Xcess, lots of blastly explosion noises backed with some nearly groovy tunes if you so desire.
The power-ups, when you get them, give you digitised speech telling you what you've got, much in the way that you had in Project-X. This breaks up the gun noises and dodgy music just enough to ensure that you don't find yourself lunging at your monitor in a fit of rage to get the sound turned off!
Lethal Xcess is very solid indeed in the gameplay department. The difficulty level is variable from easy, via normal, through to lethal which will mean that those who are just too cool to call at the old shoot 'em-up will be catered for as well as those who couldn't blast their way out of a very thin paper bag. The little craft moves around nice and smoothly, no sprite flicker or anything nasty like that. Oh yes, I nearly forgot to mention that Lethal Xcess has a simultaneous two player option. This adds a great deal to an otherwise hackneyed formula, so gel your males around! The whole thing is really good fun to play all round and should be on most people's play-list for some time to come.
Lethal Xcess has all the features that you could want and expect to see in a good shoot'em-up - lots of enemies to kill, end of level guardians to defeat (five in all) and useful power-ups to be collected. There are no less than six different standard weapons to choose from, which beef themselves up the more of them you collect. A good strategy is to try and pick one weapon and slick with it. You also find the occasional special weapon such as a smartbomb to help get you out of trouble, not to mention all the usual energy boosts etc, that you find in practically every game these days. A word of warning though, beware of the power-downs! There are lots of them and they can be a real pain in the rectal area if you collect them at a critical time.
Lethal Xcess is coming onto the market when the time is absolutely right for a good shoot'em-up, and it does indeed fit that role perfectly well. It may not be the most innovative game of '93 but Lelhal Xcess is lop entertainment all round and will delight shoot'em-up fans everywhere!
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