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Media Consumption: Rare's Justin Cook (Viva Piñata)

For this week’s Media Consumption, a column that looks at the media and art diets of our favourite industry personalities, we spoke to Justin Cook, designer for Rare’s Xbox 360 exclusive Viva Piñata.
For this week’s Media Consumption, a column that looks at the media and art diets of our favourite industry personalities, we spoke to Justin Cook, designer for Rare’s Xbox 360 exclusive Viva Piñata. The game has been in production in one form or another since 2002, and finally saw release earlier this month to uniformly rave reviews from fans and critics alike. Cook notes that the completion of the game has seen the team being rewarded with “some time off”, but adds that “it’s hard to just stop when you’ve been thinking about the same thing day-in, day-out for a few years”. “I’ve been weaning myself off work by answering questions from people who seem interested in Viva Piñata,” he laughs. “I’ve also been gathering up ideas and trying to put together some suggestions for future projects.” We caught up with Cook recently to ask about the confectionary that has been spilling from his media piñata of late. Sounds: "This year has been pretty busy completing Viva Piñata but when I got the chance I listened to some comfortable favourites. Stadium Arcadium by the Red Hot Chili Peppers is once again an incredible album filled with a mixture of music styles but always superb songs. U2’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and All That You Can’t Leave Behind show that U2, like the Chili Peppers, are a band that I can rely on. I can buy their albums ‘blind’, knowing that there will be some catchy tracks that I’ll initially listen to. Then the other tracks grow on me, and finally I really listen to the lyrics until I enjoy every part of the album. The Wonder Stuff’s Suspended by Stars and Escape from Rubbish Island - I was gutted when the Wonder Stuff split. Now Miles Hunt is back with a new band. The sound is brilliantly Wonder Stuff and the songwriting is as deliciously bitter as ever. Gorillaz’s Demon Days and K.T. Tunstall’s Eye to the Telescope are two albums that took me by surprise. My good friend Luke lent me these albums and I very quickly found myself listening to them really often. Buying some new music is something I can look forward to now the game has shipped. There are a couple of CD’s that have caught my eye: I heard The Howling Bells on Mark Radcliffe’s show on BBC Radio 2 one night as I was driving home late from work. I thought they were brilliant so I will buy the album. I also intend to pick up the Ray LaMontagne album Trouble. From what I’ve heard it sounds right up my street." Moving Pictures: "I love movies, although once again watching them has been tricky this year when we spend so much time with the game. I have a few all time favourites that I can watch again and again. I take it as a good sign if I watch a movie and then find myself thinking about it for days afterwards. Jaws - I must have seen this 50 times. I bought the 25th anniversary edition on DVD, and if they run it on TV I still end up watching it. It’s a perfectly judged movie - like a little precious gem. Acting performances are bang on the button, and everything fits together perfectly. Brazil – I had never seen such an expensive looking film that tried so hard to create a unique vision of the future. I bought the Criterion collection of Brazil, with the director's cut and the butchered U.S. cinema version. It’s so British and darkly humorous and no matter how many times I watch, I cannot tell you the point where Sam actually loses his marbles. Fantastic. I liked Delicatessen a lot, and I was thrilled by City of Lost Children , but when Jean-Pierre Jeunet came up with Amelie he created something very special. For a start, no one seems to make movies as visually stunning. Amelie tells a meandering story that is whimsical but compelling. An instant classic. The last movie I saw was on the plane back from the States. I’m a Pixar fan but I didn’t get a chance to see Cars, so trapped on a flight it seemed like a reasonable choice. I think Disney did a bad job of selling the movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I wasn’t expecting to. As soon as it’s available here, I’ll be adding it to the “kids” collection." Words: "I’ll read almost any fiction. I like to have a broad selection of reading material. I read at night to relax so I don’t like to fight too hard with the language. So recently I’ve read The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. It’s science fiction used to enhance a story rather than being the sole reason for telling the story. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson is an amazing book. Fantastically readable and stuffed full of interesting information, but open enough to set your mind wandering. The His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman are possibly the best books I’ve read for years. It tackles huge issues such as the nature of god, and current scientific theory about dark matter. There’s a cracking story that runs through it all, and there’s room to explore the heroines development from girl to young woman. Breathtaking. I’m just reading David Gemmell's Rigante books, which are about the Roman invasion of Britain, and I’ve almost completed Espedair Street by Ian Banks. As well as novels, I regularly read a sizable batch of comics. It’s a fascinating medium with unique opportunities for telling stories. Because comics are kind of ‘low profile’, you get some very experimental work. I could easily recommend 50 creators but I’d highly recommend Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Gorazde, Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha, Greg Rucka’s Queen and Country and anything by Eddie Campbell, Warren Ellis or Alan Moore." Games: "I will try any kind of game, but as a general rule, I am rubbish at racing games and I tend to avoid them. I have really enjoyed all the BioWare RPGs - I enjoy Japanese RPGs, but BioWare seemed to have created something more Western that never feels like it’s been inspired by anything from Japan. I really appreciate games that allow me to play in little chunks. As a busy father of two, I have to play games when I get the chance. Anything where I need an hour or more to play is really inconvenient. Paper Mario was a hilarious game with loads to do. I really liked the sense of humor - Nintendo did a great job of making Mario the butt of some jokes, and I appreciate the bravery of that. It was paced really steadily, building the skill level. I was sad to finish it. Valve make innovation and good quality look easy with Half-Life 2. I’ve just completed Episode 1 and now I’m eager for the next part. Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is a riot. You really feel ridiculously powerful as you throw cars at helicopters and smash tanks to pieces with your fists. It’s stuffed with optional extra missions and is completely ‘pick up and play’. Loads of fun! Most recently I’ve bought Medieval II: Total War - I’ve loved every single part of this series. It’s the only RTS where I actually feel like a general rather than some sort of farmer. It’s the kind of game that will steal away my precious time and test my wife’s patience - which is why I bought it secretly."

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