First, just let it be said, it is AMAZINGLY difficult to write a well-designed review for a dancing/rhythm game. Where I would normally be including paragraphs pertaining to story, controls, and the like, I'm left with empty space considering the fact these types of games have no such elements. This being said, here's the scoop on Pump It Up.
Quite simply, Pump It Up is the finest dancing game created thus far. There's a true style and sense to it, players are actually dancing and look impressive while doing so, rather than the patented DDR "Stomp" technique. The musical selection is top-notch, and even the background is nice to look at for those not concentrating on the step-arrows. There are a wide variety of gameplay modes, from the standard normal to the absolutely insane nightmare mode, as well as non-stop, arcade/home modes, and a sudden death mode which will instantly end a song with even one slight mistake. Exceed keeps track of high scores as well as overall "step mileage," allowing you to compare yourself to other players online and see how well you stack up.
To delve more into the detail concerning the actual gameplay, your best bet is to do a simple search on the internet for any video of Smidget, Pump It Up's premiere world-famous freestyle "master." This easily proves the point that one doesn't just step in Pump, one dances. Exceed manages a near-perfect balance of steps, quicksteps, multi-quicksteps, jumps, and spins in order to create a seamless and usually non-stop mélange of movement. It's a little daunting to beginners, as you usually feel like you've just run a marathon after even a simple song, but once you begin to get used to the demanding songs, they become easily danced.
The musical selection in Exceed is not only extremely varied, but also amazingly fitting for a game of this type. From US pop hits to hardcore Korean rock to Pump's in-house Banya, every song is enjoyable to play, and each has a unique dance "style" to match with the music. Playing through the hardcore rock songs, most of the movement will be jumps, whereas the Latin-inspired tracks will have you spinning in circles matching a step with each beat of the song. All songs were actually matched up with steps AFTER professional dancers had danced to them, creating a true feeling of movement and freestyle to the game.
Overall, Pump It Up: Exceed is a spectacular game that was long overdue on home consoles. While the home version is nothing compared to the rush you get at being cheered on by crowds of people in an arcade, it's still a blast to play, and enables you to get a little bit of practice before allowing yourself to be seen in public.