What is Bitsy?
Bitsy is, in the words of its creator Adam Le Doux, “a little editor for little games or worlds”. Bitsy limits its creations to rooms consisting of sixteen to sixteen tiles designed with a three color palette, a dialogue system, and an inventory system. Since its release in 2017, Bitsy has been continually updated and has an active community that not only participates in monthly themed jams, but also creates additional tools (commonly called Bitsy ‘hacks’) to allow for higher resolution pixel art, audio, and a variety of mechanics that complement the base editor.
Most Bitsy games are short, needing only a minute or two to fully play through at a leisurely pace. This results in many of them focusing on the atmosphere created by the art and story of the games. Playing through any given month’s jam entries provides an excellent way to experience a variety of storytelling within a short period of time. These games that the Bitsy community creates are limitless in the stories they tell and the designs behind them.
The Bitsy Frog Jam ran from July 23rd, 2020 to August 3rd, 2020. During that time, twenty-three entries were submitted and twenty-two of those are reviewed here in alphabetical order. The missing game – “frog” by alpa – was designed for Android phones only and is unfortunately unplayable for me.
“Amphibios” by janosc.
Unlike a typical Bitsy game, which has the player control an avatar that navigates through the world, “Amphibios” primarily plays as a visual novel for you to advance through. Throughout the game, the narrator details childhood memories about their restrictive home and growing interest in science and animals. An ambient, bittersweet track plays throughout and janosc uses their own Bitsy hack, RGBitsy, to feature stylistically pixelated images of real photographs in each room to help anchor the realistic tone of the game. [PLAY]
Bored over summer vacation, in “catch and release” you spend each day trying to catch the frogs along the shore. Every day would be the same, except that each capture reveals more narration about this childhood memory. The recurring scene in the game is the pixelated dock at the lake. There is an assortment of frogs lurking just below the lake’s surface, bobbing up and down as you wade through the shallows and across the dock to catch them. Tiny frogs, until you get up close to one.
The narrative plays out like you are listening to an older relative describe their childhood, except they soon forget that you are there and they keep going on about frog catching. They abruptly stop talking because they realized that maybe this is not as happy a memory as they thought, but cannot quite place why. You listened all along and know that something is up, but you cannot fully put it into words when your parents ask you about it later. [PLAY]
“Chronicles of Sir Froggie” by MrKarate.
“Chronicles of Sir Froggie” is a narrative heavy game that casts Sir Froggie as a hero who must defeat a group of evil cultists. The cultists, being evil, are attempting to wake up their god, who is also evil. The game feels like a novelization of a fantasy dungeon crawler with an enthusiastic narrator that describes everything in a cinematic fashion. The limited mechanics of Bitsy result in any potential battles being replaced with dramatic narration and the busy, detailed art helps to build the environments Sir Froggie races through. [PLAY]