All the Bad Parts

UPDATE: A mini Second Chance with the Chick is now included at the bottom of this review.

Excuse me for one second.

Cathy calmly steps outside, screams in frustration, and calmly returns to her desk.

There, much better.

Warning, there will be spoilers in this review. Here’s the first one: I don’t ultimately recommend buying All the Bad Parts. If you want to know why, you’ll have to read.

Now then, All the Bad Parts. So you play as this kid who finds himself in this bizarrely vacant school. You get scolded by your teacher and a fetch quest is kicked off. Along the way you have multiple encounters with a bully. Later, there are multiple versions of the same bully. Even later, the bully’s head is replaced with an alien-insect head-thingie. And then things start to get weird.

The first of four levels ends with you meeting your BFF, but then he starts to talk to you as if you’re on your death-bed, which for me was the “ohhhhh I get it” moment. So obviously the dude is in bad shape somewhere and we’re guiding him through some type of purgatory. In the second level, you meet your future wife after getting punked out by a bully. In the third level, you attend your best friend’s funeral. In the final stage, you relive your office career.

Despite having comic strip-like graphics and almost cheerful music, All The Bad Parts is very spooky and surreal. The highlight of this moodiness for me was a section in the third level where you literally start to descend into Hell. And I don’t mean that in a fire and brimstone kind of way, but in a very subtle, artistic way. With no warning, you transition from a bright and colorful church to a barren wasteland littered with coffins and shadow imps.

Without a tinge of hyperbole, this was the most unnerving and almost legitimately terrifying experience I’ve had playing any game over the last generation of consoles. The scene culminates in a meeting with a very polite fellow with a giant-sized vulture standing behind him. Like Dante, I was compelled to go on, but the game yanked me from this setting and asked me to return to the church. I was briefly disappointed, but then the hellish setting returns in very brief snippets during the final stage in the office building.

What really amazed me the most about the whole story was this was a compelling and terrifying game that came not from a big budget studio, but from the mind of one guy and a title that I paid a single dollar for. All the Bad Parts might not be a horror game in the traditional sense. In fact I’m sure there’s many out there who would say it’s not really a scary game at all. There’s no monsters to run from or startling “BOO!” type scares. But it gave me the heebie-jeebies. It’s all about atmosphere and the unknown. The not knowing what this guy did to deserve this really makes for an awesome hook to the storyline. Is he a bad guy? Is he a good guy? Is already a goner or is he going to pull through?

Unfortunately, I didn’t really get any of the answers to that. When I beat the final boss (the polite gentleman from earlier), my guy and him debated for a few seconds about whether he would want to do it over again. My guy wanted to, and the game ended when he woke up in the hospital, surrounded by his friends and family. Well fuck, that sure was a letdown.

Okay so the ending (or at least the one I got, more on that later) blew. But getting there is half the fun and in the case of All the Bad Parts I can say without hesitation that this was the best storyline I’ve seen on an Indie game. Any other title is at least a galaxy away, and comparing it to anything else would be ludicrous.

So naturally its paired with some of the very worst game play possible.

All the Bad Parts is a God damn fucking brawler.

No, seriously! The game I described above is a really horrible Final Fight or Double Dragon style beat ’em up. Between each moment of storyline progression, you traverse the halls of whatever facility you’re in and beat up whatever various demon thingies you cross paths with. You punch with B and kick with Y. You learn one or two combos along the way. Near the beginning of the game, you learn the B-B-Y combo. Two punches and then an uppercut that floors your opponents. Once you learn it, congratulations, you’re going to beat the game. Now you just have to wait about 200 minutes to get there.

The action is very stiff and clunky, while the hit detection could generously be described as “professional wrestling caliber.” There were multiple moments where I had baddies on both sides of me. I would be facing one, with the other not really very close to my back, and still damage the rear one. Sympathy pains, perhaps. You know those demons, they’re famous for their sensitivity.

The game play is everything the story is not. Your dude and the baddies are slow to react to everything. And the baddies are total damage sponges who take forever to kill. Every enemy encounter also results in invisible walls being put up. This works to your advantage. Once you pin an enemy up against the wall,  you can pretty much just juggle them until they finally die just by using that B-B-Y combo repeatedly like you’re Best Buy’s stock broker. Trust me, that joke will go over well at the office.

The action never really gets better. No matter how varied the abilities of the enemies get, you ultimately only have to land that one combo to do the juggling bit. Later in the game, you’ll hold down the block button while you wait for an enemy to throw a punch. If you get punched while holding block, the baddie gets stun-locked and you can begin the same old routine.

The combat is just not any fun at all. In fact, it’s really boring. This is a problem inherit to any brawler, but if you have a wide variety of fighting styles or the ability to play with friends, it takes the sting out.  Look at Castle Crashers. Sadly that’s not an option here. The first fight of the game is, more or less, the same as the last fight. It’s repetitive and it completely negates all the good stuff the storyline has to offer.

Hell, there’s even a useless lock-on feature that I actually felt made the combat harder. I fared much better when I just waited for all the present enemies to let their guard down and then start dialing in that combo. The collision detection is so damn off base that it’s easy to just flail your arms randomly in the air and take out whatever baddies happen to be around using just the power of whatever air you’re circulating at them. Maybe that’s it. He’s killing them by giving them a cold. There’s also no feeling of having any “oomph” behind your attacks. I get that the guy is established as being a bit of a pussy, but we’re still in a brawler, and the guy hits like a total sissy. When you play a good brawler, like Streets of Rage, it feels like you actually are punching people. Here, you’re just lightly poking dudes. The developer failed to make one single bit of the action feel rewarding. It’s just the same old shit from start to finish, and it killed the game.

But what really, really, really pisses me off is the fact that All the Bad Parts contains branching paths and multiple different endings. In many cases, this can be a fine way to give a game extended shelf life and reasons to play through it a second time without feeling like a total loser. Personally, I never got the whole “alternate ending” bit in video games. In DVDs, it works. You watch the movie, see the ending, and then go to the special features and call up the alternative ones. It would fucking suck to have to watch the whole movie again just to see the other endings, but that’s what you have to do in video games. And they can require anywhere from a couple of hours to a few weeks of playtime to finish. Without the ability to fast-forward through all the garbage, it can really be a chore to get there.

That’s especially the case in All the Bad Parts. The game play here is so mind-numbingly tedious that I barely finished the first time around. There is absolutely no way on this Earth that I would ever want to play through it again. It’s just not worth the time or effort, no matter how good the storyline is. So I’m really not happy with the results here. Disappointment doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about the ending, especially not knowing exactly what I could have done to change it. The game seemed awfully straight-forward and linear to me. I suppose there’s a few demons in the hell stage that I could have resisted clubbing, but otherwise I’m at a loss.

The dude behind this game, Ben Cook, has talent. Maybe not as a game designer, but as a writer. If you can somehow pair his skill to tell a story with an above-average game concept, the results should be mind-blowing. So if anyone out there thinks they have a winning game formula but need someone with the ability to craft an amazing narrative, he’s your guy. Even if it means shackling him and only speaking to him when you need advice, Hannibal Lecter style, do it.

When I was eleven, my parents told me we were going to a theater to watch an epic drama full of murder, suspense, and twists. What did we go to? The fucking opera. I remembered that while playing All the Bad Parts. As enticing as the plot might be, it’s told in the most frustratingly dull way possible. It’s the closest thing I’ve seen to a video game being opera-like. And no, I didn’t just bring up that story so that I could make a really bad “fat lady sings” joke to end this review.

Well okay, I did. But I guess it’s too obvious now so I’ll just leave it at that.

Update: Well, it’s now June of 2012, and I just replayed All the Bad Parts as an attempt at doing a Second Chance with the Chick. The game since been patched. Although the fighting is slightly less tedious, my opinion on All the Bad Parts has not changed at all. As spooky and unnerving as the story was, gameplay is all that matters to me, and All the Bad Parts does not deliver.

All the Bad Parts was developed by Ben Cook

80 Microsoft Points said Mr. Cook should novelize the plot and call it “All the Bad Parts: All the Good Parts” in the making of this review.

About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

10 Responses to All the Bad Parts

  1. Starglider says:

    I bought this game and your review closely matches my experience, except that I gave up in the funeral level because the tedium of the gameplay overwhelmed my desire to see the end of the story.

  2. Pingback: Indies in Due Time: September 9, 2011 « Indie Gamer Chick

  3. charlie says:

    So basically its like Guardian Heroes except NOT AT ALL.

  4. Ditto on the endings–I (think I) got the same one as you, and while I really want to see what else could’ve happened…I can only sit on my couch and press the Y button for so long. I don’t dislike brawlers, and I LOVE the idea of a brawler with a story like this, but the fighting was just dull.

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