I sat on my couch, holding the (admittedly cheesy) case for Pump it Up: Exceed in my hands. "This game is like real dancing, like in a club," I read aloud. Now, I may have job experience, writing experience, even life experience, but club experience has never been on my résumé. If this was going to be like real dancing, then the game was going to be in for a shock -- all the rhythm in my body is limited to my fingers and thumbs.
Although I cite the rhythm-action genre as my favorite of all that is gaming, I'll let you in on a deep, dark secret: I suck at Dance Dance Revolution. The game is awesome, no doubt, but my skill is meager at best. Now, the comparisons between Pump it Up and its Japanese predecessor would be natural to make, and many have already written the former off as the bastard child of the DDR franchise. Taking into account what might as well be my newcomer status to the dance genre, I decided to give Exceed the benefit of the doubt and come to the dance floor with a clean slate.
Verse One: Finding One’s Rhythm
With any game that comes with a peripheral that's integral to the experience, it's important to be able to use it with ease. The dance pad that Exceed comes bundled with is simply excellent. The main problem I’d always have with various DDR pads (with the exception of the Red Octane's wallet-busters) is that one moment my foot's hitting the sensor, and the next the pad's completely slipped out from underneath me. The non-slip base of the Pump it Up pad is such that it barely budged on the carpet, and not at all on my hardwood floors.
Right away, I was pleasantly surprised by the visuals. The game's interface is sleek and polished -- with its chrome detailing and anime influences, it had more of a futuristic feel than the rugged and raw feel the box art had me expecting. After the interesting introductory video, I tapped my way over to Tutorial Mode and selected Lesson One.
From the get-go, the tutorial was a bit more harm than help. Your steps are primarily made on the off beats and, as many musicians will tell you, those will give you the most trouble rhythm-wise. Along with that, you're not given enough time to read the detailed directions onscreen, so I found myself more often than not just following the demo steps before the game had me try them out. Lesson Two detailed more of the complex steps, which I had a bit of a time with -- I was shocked that they'd already suggest using my hands for some steps, being that this was a learning mode and I'd barely gotten the hang of using my feet. After completing Lesson Three, which was a barebones freestyle level, I decided that it was time to try out Arcade Mode.