Pump It Up: Exceed First Impressions

We take a look at the first home version of Andamiro's popular dancing game.

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Whether or not you enjoy dance-mat-based games, you're almost certainly aware of Konami's Dance Dance Revolution series, which first appeared in Japanese arcades in 1998 and made its North American home-console debut on the PlayStation in 2001. However, you're less likely to be aware of Andamiro's Pump It Up series, which has been popular in Korean arcades since 1999 (there have been around 10 different arcade versions to date) and is scheduled to arrive on North American PlayStation 2 and Xbox consoles in May or June. At a glance, the two series appear to be virtually identical, but they're actually quite different.

The home versions of Pump It Up will feature a simple tutorial mode.
The home versions of Pump It Up will feature a simple tutorial mode.

The most obvious difference between Pump It Up and Dance Dance Revolution is that the dance mats for Andamiro's games feature five pads rather than four--one in each corner of the mat plus one in the middle. In addition to various difficulty modes that determine the speed at which you have to step on the pads, Pump It Up features a freestyle setting that forces you to dance (as opposed to stomp) through the use of routines that, for example, require you to hit three or more pads simultaneously, which is obviously impossible to accomplish using only your feet. On hand to demonstrate Pump It Up: Exceed's freestyle mode at a recent Mastiff press event was James "Smidget" DeVito, an expert Pump It Up player who has recently become involved with promoting awareness of the game through national tournaments and such.

Like all of the best DDR and PIU players, DeVito has routines memorized for the music tracks that he dances to, and he rarely needs to look at the screen to check out the arrows that indicate what he's required to do next. During a routine that employed all 10 of an arcade machine's dance mat pads (two five-button mats side by side, basically) and incorporated handplants, body-popping, and even a headspin, we witnessed DeVito rack up a combo of well over 100 steps rated "perfect" or "great" on one of the tougher difficulty settings. We also got to see DeVito perform a similar routine using two dance mats simultaneously to play the PS2 game. DeVito explained that he prefers Pump It Up to the Dance Dance Revolution games, not only because it actually feels like dancing, but also because the game offers a far more eclectic selection of music. There's plenty of Korean pop music, of course, but you'll also find everything from classical symphonies to heavy metal and plenty of tracks from the Pump It Up band, BanYa. Any hardcore PIU fans among you will also be pleased to hear that the North American PS2 and Xbox versions of Pump It Up: Exceed will feature all of the tracks from the recently released Korean home version plus six additional, all-new tracks.

Five pads not enough for you? Try 10.
Five pads not enough for you? Try 10.

The PS2 and Xbox games will also boast a number of features not found in their arcade counterparts, including an option to turn off your "life gauge" so that you can play through to the end of a particular song even if you really suck at it. Gameplay modes in the console games will include home mode, which plays like the arcade game but allows you unlimited retry options; arcade mode, in which you'll need to clear four songs to get a high score that you can compare against others on an Internet rankings board; sudden death mode, which shows you a "game over" screen the moment you make a mistake; and survival mode, which will let you play for long periods of time without stopping if you're good (and fit) enough. The Xbox version of Pump It Up: Exceed will also feature Xbox Live support of some kind (details have yet to be confirmed), and although online play isn't planned, the service will almost certainly be used to provide online rankings (the series traditionally uses codes that you can enter on a Web site for this) and downloadable song packs.

Further information on Pump It Up: Exceed is scarce at present, but we walked away from Mastiff's press event with work-in-progress versions of both games, so you can expect more coverage in the near future.

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