Pump It Up: Exceed|
By: Matt C. on October 7, 2005
Pump It Up: Exceed may sound like a game about weight lifting, but it's actually a popular and successful dancing game franchise that's been around for over 5 years in Korea and other Asian countries. So don't feel too bad if you've never heard of Pump It Up, because a console version has never been officially released in the United States until now.
At first glance, it's very easy to pin Pump It Up: Exceed as a Dance Dance Revolution rip-off, but PIU is just as much a veteran in the music/dance genre as DDR. In addition, the design behind the two games is a bit different. Arrows still scroll up from the bottom of the screen, and the player must still press corresponding arrows on the dance pad, but the main difference is the direction in which the arrows are pointing. Instead of being laid out in a straight up, down, left, right position, Pump It Up utilizes arrows in a diagonal position in four corners. On top of that, there is a circle button right in the middle of the pad, bring the total number of dance buttons to five rather than the four found in DDR.
Making the arrows diagonal and adding another button into the mix just sounds like a gimmick, but it's not. The new pad layout and extra button really does work well, and it really does allows the player to make more realistic and better dance movements. The 5th button also makes things more complex, but that isn't exactly a bad thing -- it just makes the learning curve a little more steep. And the fact that real choreographers and dancers carefully put together the steps for each song also ramps up the difficulty. Obviously great news for seasoned players of other dancing games looking for bigger challenges and something different. This game can still be played by beginners though; you just have to practice.
One important thing to remember is that the different pad design means that you cannot use any Dance Dance Revolution pads you may already own. Fortunately, the Pump It Up: Exceed game and dance pad bundle is reasonably priced at $60 and the quality of the included pad isn't all that bad. It stays in place and doesn't feel like it's going to fall apart when you dance on it. I have not noticed any problems with it not being sensitive enough or any other weird issues. As far as I know, higher quality dance pads (such as metal ones) do not exist yet for this game, so you hardcore types who only want to use the best of best dance products will have to wait until alternatives show up.
Pump It Up: Exceed has several modes. The arcade mode is just like the arcade version so if you do poorly it is possible to see the gameover screen in a matter of seconds. Clear four songs in a row in arcade mode and you get a code which can be uploaded online to see how you rank with other people (sadly, your code cannot be uploaded to the ranking server from the PS2). The home mode is similar, except you can go through an entire song no matter how many arrows you miss. Obviously the home mode is where beginners should hone his or her skills. The sudden death mode allows expects to really test their moves because if you miss even one step, the game is over. Survival mode has the user playing one song after another, with the life gauge carrying over from the previous song. And a simple tutorial mode is included for first time players.
As expected, each song has a unique music video play in the background while you dance. They can be turned off if the player finds them too distracting, but if you actually watch them, some of the videos can be pretty cool, while others can be can be rather strange. If you unlock the video mode you can watch the music videos without having to dance.
A dance game obviously has to have good music in order to be playable, and I'm happy to say Pump It Up: Exceed delivers the goods. With 101 songs in the PlayStation 2 version, this game should really keep you busy. I really like the mix of different types of music genres in PIU. Although Korean pop takes up a lot of the song list, Crystal Method, Steriogram, Earth, Wind, and Fire; Sugarhill Gang, and even Elvis has songs in Pump It Up: Exceed. The Latin songs are also a nice touch.
Aside for a lackluster menu system (selecting songs can be overly difficult and it's tough to see which tracks you've already cleared), Pump It Up: Exceed turned out to be a very good dancing game. Something that could have made it better is a 1 on 1 online mode and more popular songs geared towards American players. If you're a fan of dancing games, I highly recommend Pump It Up: Exceed. As for beginners to the dancing game genre, you don't necessarily have to start with the Dance Dance Revolution games, because Pump It Up: Exceed can be just as fun and rewarding. Don't be afraid to check it out.