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Pump It Up: Exceed
Score: 94%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Mastiff
Developer: Andamiro
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Rhythm/ Arcade

Graphics & Sound:
The graphics in Pump It Up: Exceed are quite well done. All the arrows scroll very smoothly and the background scenes are nicely done. I have found a few songs that made it difficult to see the arrows, due to the background graphics, but that's common in any dance game. Part of learning to play the game well is learning how to ignore the background distractions. Amusing background videos do make it more fun for someone else to watch you play while they rest for the next song.

If youíre looking for lots of songs to choose from, this is the dance game youíre going to want to get. Pump It Up: Exceed contains 101 songs, which is up to twice as many as are available in several other dance games. The really nice thing is that a lot of the songs are available from the beginning of the game, at least in Arcade Mode or Survival. Most of them are still locked in Home mode. This way, you donít have to spend hours and hours trying to unlock your favorite song to get to play it. You only have to unlock them for the other modes.

The songs also cover a range of genres. Bands include Crystal Method, Steriogram, Earth, Wind and Fire, Elvis vs Junkie XL and the Sugarhill Gang. Iíd say there are several songs on there for most musical tastes.

Pump it Up: Exceed presents you with four dance modes from the beginning of the game: Arcade mode, Home mode, Sudden Death mode, and Tutorial. There are also two unlockable modes: Survival mode and Video mode.

I would recommend starting in Tutorial Mode. It has three stages - first stage goes over basics. Second stage shows you how to do the more advanced moves, jumps, half beats and hand plants. It tells you that you can either use your hands or stand on the edge of the arrows to hit two sensors at once. I personally couldn't manage to hit two sensors with one foot, so I had to use the hand plant. Third stage allows you to play through and practice them all for as long as you want. Third stage starts really easy and gets progressively harder. My only complaint with it is that I played for several minutes and it still hadn't thrown in any hand plants to practice.

Home mode is a great way to get used to the game without worrying about a life meter. You can use it to get used to the songs and the game mechanics before you try for high scores in Arcade mode.

Arcade mode is three regular rounds then a bonus fourth round. To get a score for internet ranking, you have to clear the first 3 songs with either an A or S and get anything above a D on the bonus song. Once you do, it gives you a 16 digit code so you can register your score at the Pump It Up Ranking Site. If you find the song you want is still locked in Arcade mode, you should go play it in Sudden Death mode to unlock it for Arcade.

Sudden Death mode is exactly what it sounds like. If you miss one single step, the game is over. As long it's not a miss, even a bad rating on the arrow counts, you keep going. It can be quite hard, at least with the dance pad, mainly because sometimes you just don't hit exactly where it wants you to so the sensor can read it. Using the controller is much easier in this game than in other dance games. Using the D-pad in other dance games, you can easily press just slightly off and have it read the wrong way. Pump It Up: Exceed avoids this by using the shoulder buttons, so it seems quite a bit more accurate.

Unlocking Video mode allows you to sit back and relax for a little while. When I unlocked it, there were four songs in there to choose from. Once you select one, you can watch a music video for that song. The videos are quite interesting and entertaining. Video mode is a great way to take a break from dancing for a few minutes and just enjoy the songs.

One of the things I have found more difficult than in other dance games, though, is triple beats, half beats, etc. Other dance games usually denote triple beats with a different color, which makes it much easier to determine when to hit it. Pump It Up: Exceed uses different colors for the up arrows and the down arrows. Thereís no way to denote triples. But being that the preciseness is more lenient, after a little practice you get used to it.

Really Iíd say thereís two ways to measure difficulty in this game. Personally, I found the scoring really lenient. Like most dance games, you get a letter grade for each song, F being the lowest and S being the highest. If you manage to clear the song, youíre pretty much assured at least a B. So far, Iíve only managed to get one C and one D without failing the song. The difficult part is actually clearing the song, especially if youíre used to one of the dance games that uses up, down, left, and right arrows. My advice is to keep trying, it doesnít take very long to get used to different footing.

Game Mechanics:
Thereís two ways you can play Pump It up: Exceed. You can use a standard analog controller or you can use the dance pad that comes bundled with the game. If youíre using the controller, L1 & R1 allow you to switch between channels (genres) in the music selection screen, and L2 & R2 allow you to scroll through the songs. L1 is up-left, R1 is up-right, L2 is down-left, R2 is down-right, and X is center. Using the dance pad, you simply press the arrow that corresponds to the arrow on the screen. L1 (up-left) & R1 (up-right) still allow you to switch between channels, and L2 (down-left) and R2 (down-right) still allow you to scroll through songs.

One drawback to Pump It Up: Exceed is that you cannot use your existing dance pad to play it. Even the pads with a center button do not have the rest of the arrows mapped correctly, so they just wonít work. Luckily though, the dance pad that comes with the game is very nice. It stays put on the floor better than any other Iíve seen and works pretty decently, even on carpet. The sensor area for each button seems to be very large. I found I could be a lot further off the center of the button and still have it register than I can with most pads I've played on.

Overall, I found Pump It Up: Exceed to be a very enjoyable game. Iím glad I was asked to review it because I probably wouldnít have played it otherwise, and I would really be missing out. It does take a while to get used to it if you normally play other dance games, but it is well worth it. Pump it Up: Exceed does a much better job than any other Iíve seen at simulating dancing, so you really do feel more like youíre dancing than just hitting arrows because theyíre on the screen.

-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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