News that Pump It Up is coming to Playstation 2 and my experiences with the game.

The Korean take on bemani-type games is finally coming to the console platform. Pump It Up is a game very similar to Dance Dance Revolution in that it has upward scrolling arrows and a pad that you play on.

I’ve been playing DDR for years now and I still love it. However, this past summer I got into playing Pump It Up in the arcades. It originally appealed to me because it was so similar to DDR that I figured that, because I’m good at DDR, I would be good at Pump It Up automagically.

That wasn’t the case.

At first, I had a very hard time making my mind think in diagonal instead of cardinal directions. It took a good while for me to make my muscles not react instinctively to an arrow on the right side of the screen by stepping immediately to my right. In Pump It Up, the right-most arrow is the down-right diagonal pad. The cardinal direction change was only part of the difference that created the neural confusion. The other part was the presence of a central “arrow” (which is more of a circle). For some reason, when the center needed pressed, my feet instinctively went down. I’m not sure what was up with that, but I eventually trained myself to not do that.

The song selection in Pump It Up is somewhat different than that of DDR. It has a much wider range of music styles. This doesn’t mean that I don’t love DDR for its techno and happy hardcore, but it’s nice to play to different music sometimes. At first, the DDR player will be disappointed in the musical selection that Pump It Up has to offer, but I got used to it and started to appreciate the change of pace.

Much like DDR, there are sequences of arrow patterns that are somewhat standard and mechanical after you have been playing it for a while. The one thing I noticed about Pump It Up is that there is not too much room for beginners. Even “2 foot” songs are quite difficult (in my opinion) for first time players to figure out. The learning curve is pretty exponential and right away you need to learn how to move around the pad, cross over, and spin. That’s right. You’ll be forced to either learn how to play the game or wind up quite frustrated. With DDR, the beginning player can handle playing the really easy songs by always going back to the center. Pump It Up actually makes it difficult to not move around the pad. Even people who were playing it for the first time (who were taking it seriously) tended to walk around the pad, albeit very haphazardly. Other than crossing your feet, you also have to learn how to spin around the pad. (On a side note, there’s this one song where, on the highest difficulty, you keep one foot planted in the center while every other arrow needs hit)

Another difficulty in learning how to play Pump It Up when coming from prior DDR experience is the color of arrows. Instead of each subdivision being colored differently (1/8 note, 1/4 note, etc), each directional arrow has a different color and the subdivisions of those arrows are all the same color. This gets really confusing when you start getting into songs with a lot of arrows. One way that I was told from the more experienced players of how to get around that was to change the scroll speed so that the arrows are more spaced out. While you have think faster with your reflexes, it certainly helps out with the length of time needed to process when to hit the arrow.

All in all, there’s a place in my heart for both DDR and Pump It Up. I’m very glad to see that I’ll be able to play Pump It Up in my house so I can practice without spending the money at the arcade. I like Pump It Up mostly because I tend to be an elitist about many things and Pump It Up requires more technical skills than DDR and is more impressive (I think) to watch as a spectator.

One thing that I’ll need to do before I can play the PS2 version of Pump It Up, though, is to modify my console so that it can play Japanese region games. I need to find a way to do this that doesn’t require much if any soldering. I have minor carpal tunnel syndrome which makes my hands shake just enough to make me dangerous when soldering. I don’t really feel like ruining a $250 toy. So if anyone has a suggestion for modding my Playstation without soldering, please let me know.