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All the Bad Parts

All the Bad Parts is an Action Adventure that features hand to hand combat, weapons, a shifting plot line, and multiple endings. The story begins in a classroom. While trying to survive school, Corbin starts to notice that time is starting to speed up, and everything isnít as it appears. He then has to make sense of the shifting world around him, fight waves of enemies, and make key decisions.

Well-Bred Rhino has an awesome logo. It's as classy as you'd expect from the name, depicting a rhino in silhouette adorned with a top hat, the classiest of hats. I love how the "O" in "Rhino" is used to outfit the logo with a monocle as well, because a monocle is the eye piece of choice of the fabulously wealthy. It says, "I'm so god damned rich I don't need to see out of both eyes to succeed in life, you silly 20/20 peasant." Well, it says that, but in a more dignified manner. Yet while the developer logo clearly champions high society (and, I guess, rhinos, too), its Xbox Indie game questions whether the time spent reaching for the brass ring is worth it in the end.

All the Bad Parts tells the story of Corbin, a likable average guy just trying to make it through life without too many headaches. The first chapter, LEARN, begins in elementary school with Corbin being sent on a fetch quest to throw together an essay he needs to hand to his teacher. He's disoriented, but his friend Kevin tells him Corbin left his notes in his locker, so he'll need to grab his notes, a pretty cover, and a bibliography to satisfy his teacher. Taking the stairs from the basement to the 1st floor, Corbin encounters a wild bully, which initiates the first of many, many fights he'll encounter in the game. This sequence sets the tone for the game as All the Bad Parts plays out as Corbin engages in an extended series of gathering items punctuated with beat-em up action.

It's an odd dynamic, and neither element is particularly strong. The adventure element never elevates itself above simply fetch quests. You're told you need to gather or do something and where it is, and off you go to complete it. The Back button displays a handy log and map to make getting around the limited 3-D environments a bit easier, and the game smartly checks off quests as they're completed. Corbin's world is composed of a series of hallways and rooms connected by stairwells, and most transitions between areas will bring about a group of thugs for him to fight off before continuing. The Help menu shows that Corbin can learn some combos, but I was not able to learn any of them in the two hours it took me to complete the game nor understood what is necessary to unlock them. You can punch, kick, jump, and block, but certain button sequences can unleash more powerful attacks such as his sissy slap looking "Blender of Death." The fighting feels a bit loose and becomes repetitive fast. You dread the fights not because they're terribly executed but rather because they get in the way of good storytelling, like how random battles can ruin an RPG.

Where All the Bad Parts succeeds is its unusual premise (particularly for a beat-em up) and smart writing. I love the quotes from Corbin spooled on the loading screen, particular his later wisdom such as "Success in life can best be measured in the ratio of T-shirts to collared shirts in the laundry basket" along with "The world's first great leader was a man about 50,000 years ago who saw the sun rise, turned to his friends, and said 'you're welcome.'" I like the progression and tone shifts displayed as Corbin ages, but as well structured a character Corbin is, he's surrounded by a flat cast who at best can only mirror his personality. Kevin, his girlfriend, his sister, workmates... they're all just diluted Corbin. Granted, no one is a unique snowflake, but surrounding the lead with so many others of similar mindset and speech make for a bland cast, even when they're channeling such an amusing protagonist. The plethora of bugs, a clear attempt at metaphor, aren't set up well enough, while the man in black here seems to be All the Bad Part's take on a Strange Man character, but he's not as well structured here as he is in Red Dead Redemption. I can forgive the occasional hiccup in planning or pacing since the game did well enough to captivate me through the end, but I still do wish the story were a bit better focused and designed as it is here. The big point at the end of the game would be better served if the game spent more time letting us experience Corbin's life instead of fighting weird bug people and telling us of past events.

Developer Ben Cook definitely can entertain, but making a beat-em up, no matter how innovative its setting may be to the genre, is clearly not his calling. He's a good storyteller who let shoehorning needless gameplay interrupt the flow of a solid story. As noted in his development blog, "A 'basic' strategy game, however, would get blasted by the press, so it needs to be mixed into another genre. This way, no matter how basic the strategy elements are, the other elements (action, story) of the game can make up for it." I'm not sure I subscribe to that, because here we are looking a game in which the good parts are diminished by the bad parts. Just because the formula is too diluted to find itself in a hard definition of a beat-em up or adventure game does not in any way negate the weaknesses of those elements present in the submitted work. Better to work to your strengths -- here, the peppy writing -- and not open your good work up to criticism by including items you know aren't of the same level.

As awkward as the delivery and flow can be at times, everything All the Bad Parts was building up to pays off with the mailroom scene. It loses its footing a bit shortly thereafter due to conflicting messages in the plot, but the journey was worth it and interesting enough to entertain and maybe learn from as well. Thankfully, you can dumb down the combat challenge to better enjoy the story, and it's worth a trip to the difficulty select just to check out the random difficulty setting labels: "Here for the Story / Here for the Gory / Here for the Glory" says one screen, while another spells it out with "Fauxhawk / Mohawk / Leucopternis Polionotus" and yet another says "Flesh Wound / Gonna Scar / I Can See Bone, Is That Bad?" The game offers multiple endings to encourage repeated plays, and while I'm hesitant to slog through another two hours of bug squishing just to look for ways I can influence the ending, I'm nonetheless intrigued by what else is available. Too bad for the game that the developer followed a philosophy which ensured the idea of revisiting the game more unpalatable than it should have been if let alone. I ultimately enjoyed my trip through Corbin's life, but I won't be planning another visit.

★★★★☆
May 21, 2012
August 28, 2011 | 240 points
Developer | Video | Download

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