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Aisle

by Sam Barlow profile

Slice of life
1999

(based on 285 ratings)
27 reviews

About the Story

"Late Thursday night. You've had a hard day and the last thing you need is this: shopping. Luckily, the place is pretty empty and you're progressing rapidly. On to the next aisle...

Aisle started out as a game which would not need the usual meta-verbs... i.e. a game with only one turn. The initial idea was: How do I make a game with only one turn interesting? Give it lots of endings--in fact there are many 'endings' and (hopefully) every sensible action results in an 'ending'. There is no winning action. There is however more going on than just this and the more endings you see the more things should become clear." [--blurb from The Z-Files Catalogue]


Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: May 28, 1999
Current Version: revision 3 release 1
License: Freeware
Development System: Inform 6
Forgiveness Rating: Merciful
Baf's Guide ID: 431
IFID: ZCODE-1-990528-9252
TUID: j49crlvd62mhwuzu

Spoofed by Pick Up the Phone Booth and Aisle, by David Dyte, Steve Bernard, Dan Shiovitz, Iain Merrick, Liza Daly, John Cater, Ola Sverre Bauge, J. Robinson Wheeler, Jon Blask, Dan Schmidt, Stephen Granade, Rob Noyes, and Emily Short
Referenced in Fingertips: The Day That Love Came To Play, by S. John Ross

Awards

Nominee, Best Story; Nominee - The player character, Best Individual PC; Winner, Best Use of Medium - 1999 XYZZY Awards

22nd Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2011 edition)

41st Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2015 edition)

29th Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2019 edition)

Editorial Reviews

Baf's Guide


Aisle isn't a game per se, but rather a different means of approaching the idea of fiction. Rather than present a plot, it presents an ambiguous situation and gives you a chance to type a single command. The command you type determines not only what the protagonist does, but also who he is. This is definitely "concept IF," but the author has done an excellent job and it's very easy to feel for the different possible protagonists. While the level of interaction is obviously limited in a one-move game, the scenery is very "deep"; the game seems to have a response for almost everything.

-- R. Serena Wakefield

SPAG
Sam Barlow's Aisle is without a doubt one of the most unusual works to hit the IF community in quite some time. In no sense is it a game; trying to "win" it is futile, and the suboptimal outcomes aren't bad choices to be avoided as such. Rather, the point is to explore the central character and take a look at the various possibilities available to him from one point in time. That said, however, it's not clear that Aisle is an entirely successful experiment. [...] (Duncan Stevens)
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Reviews from Trotting Krips
Yes, this is experimental IF. I cringe at the very thought, normally. Aisle, however, is far and away the most effective, enjoyable experimental IF game I've come across. It's flawlessly implemented, wonderfully written, and intensely evocative. It is a very moving experience, and should stick with you long after you leave your interpreter.
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Play This Thing!
Aisle is a one-turn game. Play a turn, and the game ends.

Restart. Try something else. The game ends again.

This isn't a case where working out just the right single move will win, either. (For that, try Andrew Pontious' brilliant but difficult Rematch.) No, Aisle is partly about exploration -- an astonishing number of commands are implemented, ranging well outside the usual set of interactive fiction commands -- and partly about assembling the story that you're interested in.
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Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Crucially, a number of the less eventful endings provide hints as to your characterís backstory, which in turn fill your mind with possibilities as to new actions you could attempt. Hence, Groundhog Day - each attempt you make at the game is informed by the events of the previous one(s). You revert back to exactly the same situation every time, but though the world hasnít changed, your knowledge has - and with that comes an uncanny sense of progress.
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SynTax
The writing is very good, evoking an atmosphere that I readily took part in. There were responses to all the inputs I tried, even to some that I typed simply because they always provoke a stock response from the game. My advice is to try as many ways getting information about the story as you can. Put yourself behind the trolley and into his shoes. Beware, I found some responses a little disturbing.
See the full review

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Member Reviews

5 star:
(75)
4 star:
(132)
3 star:
(58)
2 star:
(18)
1 star:
(2)
Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 21
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Most Helpful Member Reviews


26 of 27 people found the following review helpful:
Romantic Isolation, July 30, 2008
by Jimmy Maher (Oslo, Norway)

Most discussion of this work begins and ends with its central gimmick: that it plays out over a single turn, in which you are allowed to choose just one action that will determine how this little vignette concludes. For me, though, that's not the most important thing.

If Aisle was just an exercise in trying random actions to see what results, it might be fun and intriguing, but hardly heartbreaking. And make no mistake: for me, Aisle is heartbreaking, oozing the same sort of neon-drenched romantic loneliness as a Wong Kar Wai film. You'll find some of the finest writing in IF here:

>x trolley
(your trolley)
The trolley is a small cage of steel with bent rubber wheels. Full of your shopping: meals for one, drinks for one (well, drinks for several, but hey, who's counting?).

Gnocchi for one wouldn't really work. You settle for spaghetti and continue on to the next aisle.


As you play again and again, the backstory -- or rather, several possible backstories, but each drenched in the same melancholic longing -- gradually reveal themselves. One or two endings even hold out the promise of an end to the PC's isolation...

Truly, a great piece of work.


11 of 12 people found the following review helpful:
Nothing Quite Like It, December 1, 2007
by Matzerath (West Coast, Salty Smell)
Related reviews: Matzerath's Favorites

What a wonderfully successful experimental piece. As has been well documented, the game ends after your first action, but the results are myriad and compelling. I played late into the evening, and it was some time before the true story hidden in the simple dynamic finally revealed itself (and after I'd already thought I'd figured it out). Beneath an illusory simplicity is a very funny, scary, and ultimately moving game -- if you're willing to try as many possibilities as you can. It's weirdly cathartic to be presented with a recurring moment in time in which you can try whatever action (within reason) is at hand.
Also, there are some amusing twists based on IF conventions that are quite unexpected and funny.
Literary and fun: what more could one ask for?


11 of 15 people found the following review helpful:
Amusing as well as deep, October 22, 2007
by robkun (London, UK)

The BAF review almost says it all. The only thing I'd add is how funny it can be as well, and yet even in these wickedly surreal moments, there is still that depth that makes you realise how much thought has been put into the design.

I'd say these's about an hour of non-stop enjoyment in this title - and I haven't yet gone into the walkthrough to see what I missed.


See All 27 Member Reviews

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Polls

The following polls include votes for Aisle:

One Room Non-Escape Games by tggdan3
I'm looking for a one room game, where the purpose is NOT to escape that one room. (Eliminating games such as Enlightenment, Suveh Nux, 69,105 keys, etc). I'm not sure if there even ARE many such games, but I would be interested in...

Artistic Games by WriterBob
I'm interested in games that take the fiction of IF to new levels. These are not straightforward, plot driven games. Think instead of games that play like poetry, or games that focus on a character's revelation.

Sex in non-adult IF by Ferret From Hell
It struck me the other day that sex is one thing that actually seems to feature rarely in IF. What games are there, other than out and out AIF, that give prominence to sex or sex scenes? The only ones that immediately spring to mind are...

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