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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...
Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: May 28, 1999
Current Version: revision 3 release 1
Development System: Inform 6
Forgiveness Rating: Merciful
Baf's Guide ID: 431
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
Nominee, Best Story; Nominee - The player character, Best Individual PC; Winner, Best Use of Medium - 1999 XYZZY Awards
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
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 character’s 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 hasn’t changed, your knowledge has - and with that comes an uncanny sense of progress.
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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.
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|Average Rating: |
Number of Reviews: 21
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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:
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.
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?
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.
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