Pump It Up: Exceed Review

Dance Dance Revolution has pretty much been the king of the hill of dancing games just about as long as the genre has been around. Sure the series has produced some good games, but part of its success is definitely attributable to the fact that it has never really had any serious challengers. Pump It Up: Exceed (PIU) aims to change all that. While the game is new, the Pump It Up series has been around for a number of years in Korea and has gained quite a following there. This is the first time that American gamers will be able to bring the game into their homes, though, so let’s see if it can give DDR a run for its money…

PIU comes with its own dance pad and if you’ve seen or used one of these things before you may notice something a little different about it. The PIU pad places the step arrows at the corners of the pad instead of laying them out in the cardinal directions used by game pads and consequently DDR-style pads. There is also a new step point in the dead center of the pad which adds a new step to the dance challenges. The idea according to Mastiff is that the new layout allows for choreographed and more natural dance moves. While I have to say I found it a lot easier to watch the screen since the dance pad never forced me into a sideways facing position, it still feels to me like I am hopping on buttons rather than actually dancing. The additional step point in the center also caused some issues for me. Your feet naturally sweep across the neutral position before moving out to another step, so making this position a hotspot makes sense in a way. However its presence also eliminates a neutral or “safe’ spot on the pad. When I missed a step or was thrown off rhythm by a tough move, my natural tendency was to bring my feet in to “reset” myself and jump back into the groove on the next beat. This of course caused me to press the center step and register another misstep with the game. This would sometimes send me into a cascade failure of missteps which would blow the whole game – all because I couldn’t recover from one mistake. I suppose if you’re a dance game pro you’ll like this extra level of challenge, but it can make things tough on the casual player and brutal on the beginner. Another one of my complaints is that when navigating the game’s menus I had to step off the pad completely and make my selections from the side, and I had to press the steps several times to get some items to register. A bit too much effort when the game itself takes so much energy. The dance pad itself is sturdier than most and the non-slip backing helps keep it in place – although I have to say that I did not have a highly polished wood floor to try it out on.

For those of you who’ve never played dance games before, here is how PIU works. There is a line of icons at the top of the screen that correspond to each step on the dance mat. While a song plays and music video is shown in the background, matching icons scroll up from the bottom of the screen towards the row at the top. Your goal is to step on the corresponding step at the exact moment that the icons are superimposed on each other.