Until Andamiro stepped in Dance Dance Revolution held a monopoly over the dance game genre. When Pump it Up had its arcade debut it came with mixed results. Players were split into sticking to DDR or becoming “pumpers”. While the series didn’t gain much steam in the US, probably due to the lack of arcades, it has a core fanbase. Mastiff was quick to capitalize on this and bring Pump it Up Exceed to players at home.
Pump it Up Exceed tries to differentiate itself as an all new dancing game unlike Dance Dance Revolution. You still stomp on a mat, but the arrangement is different. Arrows are on the corners instead of being one step to the left or the right. Andamiro also adds a center “stomp” button for a total of five different areas to move to. The alternate layout forces players to move around the pad more. It is just easier to move to the side of the pad o catch a quick flurry of diagonal arrows instead of waiting at the center. There is a problem with the layout though, it is incredibly difficult to play if you’re short. Diagonal jumps are already complex enough. Now imagine not having the leg span to hit both arrows. Because of this Pump it Up Exceed isn’t going to capture the 10 and under audience.
Pump it Up also claims to be choreographed by real dancers instead of being a “stepping” game. The single pad mode doesn’t seem any different than stepping on the right button at the right time. It doesn’t quite feel like dancing until you get a second pad and try out freestyle mode. Freestyle mode gives players the area to move around and actually dance. The steps in freestyle mode make much better use of the wider area than double mode in DDR ever did. Are freestyle steps really done by a professional dance chorographer? It certainly seems reasonable. While Pump it Up Exceed adds in some actual dancing it doesn’t forsake the hardcore stepping crowd. Compare Pump it Up to Dance Dance Revolution and most people will say Pump is harder. Why? First players will have to re-orientate themselves to the map. Even after you get the new layout down you will have to master hitting three or even four arrows at the same time. Players will need to use their hands and feet to simultaneously hit all the arrows. It’s a mechanic that DDR just never forced people to pick up. Although, what makes Pump extremely difficult or frustrating depending on your take is that arrows aren’t lit up to signify half beat steps. On the harder difficulties when arrows are piled up this is key for figuring out if you should hit both steps at the same time or prepare for successive steps. Since there isn’t an option for this players have to know songs inside and out for each difficulty level.
The PS2 version of Pump it Up manages to pack in 101 songs in the game, the largest for any dance game to date. The Xbox version still has a lot of songs, 97 to be exact with Xbox Live downloads planned for the future. While there are lots of songs to choose from not all of them have each difficulty from normal to the dual pad nightmare mode available. Because of this some songs end up only having “easy” modes and some can only be played on challenging difficulties. That being said there still are a lot of songs, just not a lot of step options for each song. Pump it Up Exceed separates songs in three categories pop, k-pop and BanYa songs designed for specifically for Pump. The pop channel has a few well known songs mostly oldies like “In the Groove”. Complimenting the disco beat are latin pop songs. Mozquito is featured with “Meximexi” and “Conga” is in the game too. Pump it Up also brings Korean pop music to the stage instead of forsaking the original soundtrack for a localized one. Songs like “Fighting Spirits” from H.O.T., “Valenti” from BoA and “Forever Love” by Fin.K.L. round off the licensed soundtrack. The other 2/3rds of music is done by BanYa, the Pump it Up house music. The songs from BanYa are decent enough, but they seem too generic. We have the obligatory classic song remixed into techno with “Beethoven Virus” and the out of place holiday song, “Rolling Christmas”. The song list tries to hard to fill the gaps presented from the licensed music instead of adding in a few solid songs. You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned house music, which is a staple of the dancing genre. For better or worse, Pump drops having a dance floor sound track. This is bound to pull in gamers who are turned off by DDR’s club inspired music. There are few “electronic” tracks to try out like “Name of the Game” from Crystal Method to balance out the list. Pump it Up Exceed’s mix is certainly worldly with pop songs from around the world.
You can only purchase Pump it Up Exceed in a bundle with a dance pad. This is probably a good idea since all your other dance pads are rendered useless with Pump. Even the uber expensive Cobalt Flux pads with a center button won’t work since Pump it Up Exceed maps the arrows to the PS2’s shoulder buttons. A good idea would have been to include an option for players to arrow buttons to fit their pad. Thankfully, the pre-packaged soft mat from MadCatz is fairly decent. It is about the same quality as a real Konami pad with grips on the bottom to prevent slipping. The buttons aren’t raised up like in the deluxe Ignition pads nor is the pad hard enough to play with your shoes on. Right now no other company is making 3rd party mats so you’re stuck playing with the MadCatz mat whether you like it or not.
Pump it Up isn’t exactly designed to introduce dancing games to the masses. But for all you pro dancers out there Pump it Up Exceed is a decent alternative to Dance Dance Revolution.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 0
Mastiff has the game localized in English, which should pose little problems to importers out there.
Even though it is hard to find, Pump it Up Exceed has been in stores since August 2005.
+ Pros: A new controller layout and over a hundred songs to try out.
- Cons: Players that started out on DDR will need to move up the learning curve and buy new accessories.
Overall: It’s a dancing game designed for hardcore dancers that are willing to spend the time to relearn their footing.
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