Taylor Cocke

    Taylor Cocke


  • Silver Lining: Lollipop Chainsaw and the failure of satire

    'Silver Lining' is a column from freelancer Taylor Cocke dedicated to highlighting moments of real potential in less than perfect games. This week he examines Grasshopper Manufacture's Lollipop Chainsaw. The following may contain story spoilers. There's an idea on the Internet called Poe's Law. Basically, it states that if a satirical piece is indistinguishable from the subject it is trying to mock, then it's a failure. It was designed to relate to extremist ideologies like those of the Westboro Baptist Church, but the idea can be extrapolated to just about any attempt at satire. And in the case of Lollipop Chainsaw, it's absolutely applicable.On its face, Lollipop Chainsaw has all the makings of a solid parody title. First off, it's a Suda51 joint, meaning it has a certain lighthearted over-the-top attitude that lends itself well to parody. It was also penned by James Gunn, who has made his career mocking movie tropes with films like Dawn of the Dead, Super, and the vastly underrated Slither. These are guys experienced in making weird, hilarious stuff.The game itself obviously doesn't take itself seriously. Just take a look at the cover: a scantily clad young woman carrying around a chainsaw while the head of her boyfriend hangs off her belt. It's an undeniably silly image, and one that seems to be making fun of the roles women traditionally inhabit in games. Here's a clearly over-sexualized young woman, carrying a massive chainsaw, and essentially dehumanizing her male counterpart.But it never quite makes the turn that satire must make to work. In a gaming landscape that involves a whole lot of problematic images of women, pointing out the absurdity of these portrayals could have been something incredibly valuable. Instead, we get the same old tired jokes about sexuality that we've been hearing for years and years.%Gallery-130904%

  • Silver Lining: I Am Alive's unfeeling world

    'Silver Lining' is an ongoing column from freelancer Taylor Cocke, dedicated to examining the hidden potential in recently released, critically panned games. Even in the mediocre, we can find a silver lining. As I began my time with Ubisoft's downloadable title I Am Alive, the most striking aspect of the game's art style was the high-contrast, almost black and white way it depicted the destroyed city it takes place in. The world feels dead, as it should. The lack of color depicts a space devoid of life, dotted by humanity huddled around the bright oranges and yellows of occasional makeshift fires. At least initially, there's a sharp, distinct difference between the world and those who struggle to live within it. Very quickly, though, it becomes apparent that the distinction exists purely between the protagonist Adam and, well, everything else.I Am Alive's greatest failures don't lay in its shoddy controls or dated visuals. For me, it was never able to establish a feeling of desperately fighting for survival. At least, not in the same way the non-playable characters are very clearly struggling. Very early, Adam runs into a man sitting next to a fire, who immediately draws his weapon and demands Adam back away. Right away, I Am Alive establishes that its world is one that you shouldn't trust anyone if you value your safety.Soon after that, Adam comes across a mother and son, the latter of which has been harmed by roving bandits and needs help to survive. Unable to move, they need Adam's help to survive. You can give them a medkit, perhaps forsaking your own safety later on, or simply move on. Again, this pair does its best to show that this world is a frightening, dangerous one.%Gallery-145458%

  • Silver Lining: NeverDead's transforming man

    'Silver Lining' is a new column from freelancer Taylor Cocke dedicated to pointing to the pieces that showed the most potential in recently released, bad games. Even in the mediocre, we can find a silver lining. Games tend to take death rather lightly. Characters die constantly, extra lives are collected and wasted, and respawns are regularly infinite. NeverDead eschews it (almost) entirely, adding an interesting layer to core convention of death in games. As a whole, however, NeverDead is mostly a mess. Combat leans toward the tedious, and the dismemberment mechanic is poorly implemented and clunky. Even the story is paper-thin and mostly unfunny, in a genre not generally lauded for well-crafted narratives.But it could have worked. The concept of playing as the immortal Bryce Boltzmann is one that's fascinating, especially if he's unhappy with his blessing and/or curse. He's able to lose and reattach his limbs and head at will, even if it causes him a good amount of pain. He's bitter. Plus, the same demon that literally immortalized Boltzmann killed his wife in the process. With all the free time he has, it's understandable that he may be a little whacked in the head.We could have gotten a story about a man forced to abandon all hope, even if he does not have the means to do so physically. Instead, we got the story of a snarky, sneering jerk with no redeeming qualities.%Gallery-145558%

  • Occupy the Joystick: OAK-U-TRON 201X and Keep Me Occupied take DIY games to the people

    In a spot usually reserved for household names like Street Fighter or Galaga, the cabinet's title reads OAK-U-TRON 201X, hastily printed on computer paper. Heavy with the hardware and battery required to make it operate on the move, the OAK-U-TRON's creators Alex Kerfoot and Mars Jokela were sweating with the effort of pushing it through a park in the middle of San Francisco. Like a DIY Trojan horse, it contains a collection of indie titles specifically written for the Winnitron software system, all housed in a piecemeal arcade cabinet complete with an old computer monitor and PS2 fight stick controllers.I had spotted them while eating lunch in a park in the heart of downtown San Francisco, and made the decision to throw away my mediocre turkey sandwich in order to jog over and check it out. As we walked along, folks from everywhere in the park had the same idea I did, and examined the moving cabinet. Of course, that's exactly what Kerfoot and Jokela were hoping for.

  • Street Fighter X Tekken: Welcome to the festival

    I remember the days of sitting in my buddy's room, losing repeatedly to his Vega as my Dhalsim flailed in front of pixelated, braying elephants. With every loss came the time to give up the controller for the next player in line. Depending on how many people were over, a sort of cheering section would develop. Fueled by Dr. Pepper and bags of potato chips, these impromptu parties are memories that I'm sure I share with many gaming folks.Street Fighter x Tekken is doing its best to recreate those moments. We already know it's bringing together two of the biggest fighting game franchises on the market, thus creating a huge, varied cast. The Tekken characters have been given the Street Fighter IV treatment, creating a stylized, almost cartoonish look. Their new animations are just as stylized. They're clearly ready to party.%Gallery-144912%