Part 4: Yuki Solo 4YUKI SOLO UPDATE:
The exploration serves to break up the action, and in that regard it is successful, but in and of itself it borders on tedium rather than fun.
I think that can depend on the kind of gamer you are. If you expect to get everything before moving on, yeah, you're in for a slog as you grind your face against every corner that doesn't represent progress, but my first time through the game (which was in co-op as the Dishwasher, like Alden), my friend and I just did cursory searches of most areas with knowledge of the ways in which they tend to hide secrets and we'd be thrilled any time we found one, and if we were too bloodthirsty to care, we just rushed past anything that didn't immediately present a threat. We ended up missing 13 of 30 beads, collecting most of the ones I still like to use, so the pacing and location of missable items was pretty excellent for us.