Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of Local Tech Wire and business editor of

CARY, N.C. – makes a departure from its mega-selling “Gears of War” and “Unreal” video game franchises today with the official release of at Xbox Live Arcade. And the trend in early reviews is quite good.

Based on sci-fi legend Orson Scott Card’s “Empire” novel, the game is packed with action as one would expect from Epic. However, this is a throwback of sorts – it’s a side-scrolling game – and that’s part of the excitement Shadow is generating.

Although developed by Epic’s subsidiary, Chair Entertainment in Utah which Card has worked with in the past, Epic guru Cliff Bleszinski took an extremely active role in the game’s creation. Plus, the script was written by well-known sci-fi writer Peter David. (Note: The Skinny erred in saying Card once owned Chair; he just worked with them.)

Mix a fine script with the award-winning talent at Chair, the technical expertise at Epic that has developed the industry’s most popular game engine (Unreal) and the Blezinski touch and the end result could be a big seller.

“The great news is that Shadow Complex accomplishes the rare feat of living up to the hype,” writes Miguel Concepcion at the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Anyone who grew up playing 16-bit action/adventure games will feel the nostalgia kick in almost immediately,” he wrote. “Movement strictly stays within the 2-D plane, but the action is certainly 3-D. Weapons can be aimed down the z-axis, as enemies attack from everywhere. This aiming feature does not take long to get used to (thanks to a laser sight) and is one of the game’s many high points.”

Eurogames gave the game 9 out of 10 stars.

“The result is a glorious 3D reimagining of the Metroidvania [scroll] style of game, at once reverent of its references, yet also eager to better their achievements,” wrote Simon Parkin. “In some areas it meets this tall order, in others it falls a little short. Nevertheless, it’s a game that will delight gamers old enough to recognise the classics it celebrates, while captivating those oblivious to its inspirations.”

Christopher Grant at Joystiq added: “Put simply, Shadow Complex is the easiest Xbox Live Arcade recommendation I can make and one of the best games of the year.”

Raved Tom Price at Team xBox: “You know a game is good when everyone you know who has played it can’t stop raving about it. And everyone you know who hasn’t played it can’t stop talking about how much they’re looking forward to playing it. Such is the case with Shadow Complex, a new Xbox LIVE Arcade game from Chair Entertainment and Epic Games. So far, it appears to be the XBLA game of the year, if not of all time, but I wouldn’t blink at someone considering it as the best Xbox 360 game of 2009 period either.”