Balance is Everything – It’s Under Control LD Review
In the latest Ludum Dare theme of “sacrifices must be made,” It’s Under Control does nail the concept that you can’t do everything in real life, showing it using just physics. Which in turn doesn’t make it a really fun game, since reality is portrayed too well.
To play, you drag and drop actions (represented as shapes – either geometric or symbols) on a bar which is perfectly balanced on top of a thin pillar. Your goal is to make sure you pass each month with your basic needs fulfilled (working, eating and sleeping) along with other needs such as exploring, exercising, hobbies, social activities or love.
Within your few first attempts, a problem does present its ugly rear: you can’t do everything at once. Depending on the balance, you might find just enough leeway to place in another task. Or the task you’re trying to place ends up falling off the bar, ruining your life’s balance. Or worse, the bar itself falls off! If three tasks fall or the bar itself falls, the month is abruptly over. You can’t ignore your basic needs or their shapes will grow in size (which makes them harder to balance), and eventually, you will have issues which you need to dedicate time to resolving them and their root causes. The game will verify if your life is in balance before advancing to the next month, so you can’t cheat your way out of a sloppy month. The game will often display notifications which show you hints and info depending on what’s going on.
The fun in It’s Under Control is in how long you manage to keep your life balanced and to keep progressing until it all comes down on your head. When it does come down on your head, the game is over, but it assures you that at this point there are always people willing to give you a hand and help you out. That said, it isn’t really fun for long, and I don’t see myself returning to it for a quick play.
Overall, the game does a swell job of emulating life with only gravity. Even its development more or less mirrors the concept: the art is intentionally simplistic and the only background music is the droning tick-tocks of a clock to get the game finished in under 24 hours with testing – which took a heavy toll on the developer, Ludipe. I’d argue that the game was a small rounded square while testing was a huge hexagon threatening to throw the development off balance, and he didn’t place art or sound design on the bar.