Aisle

by Sam Barlow profile

Slice of life
1999

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Number of Reviews: 27
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
An Incredible Piece of Experimental Game Design, March 23, 2015

Aisle is such a simple and well executed idea that absolutely everyone in the IF community must have been kicking themselves when it came out that they'd not have thought of it sooner.

Basically, Aisle was the first "one move" text adventure. The game gives you a very simple set-up - you are standing in the aisle of a supermarket, then asks you to perform one action at which point the game will end. This may seem like it has the potential to run into gimmickry but the way it "plays the player" works so well that I can only refer to it as a one of the most inventive games I've ever played.

The endings range from the absurd, funny, mundane to the moving, some of which are exceptionally well written and others which aren't so, but it's the way the game forces the thought process in finding the endings which is what makes the game so great.

At first while thinking of different actions and endings to take, the game seemed rather cute and I began by thinking of pretty standard things, but as I went on I began to think of darker and darker things (not necessarily in an "immoral" way, just in a "wow, did I really think that?" kind of way), some of which I was hesitant to even type in to the interface not only in anticipation of how the game would react but also because I didn't want to admit I'd thought of anything so disturbing. It also becomes hard to drag yourself away from the game. In one session in this game I spend about an hour and a half thinking of endings and came out feeling emotionally drained and guilty about the way my mind works.

Aisle isn't the cute, gimmicky game I originally pinned it down as at all. It's a way of letting you explore how your mind works in a completely innocuous situation within the anonymity and detachment of the artificial world and that is disturbing as hell. I spent my time afterwards wondering whether or not that's how I would really react with no social inhibitions and whether or not the human condition does have these repressed natural thoughts about both ourselves and others which games allow us to enact out in a safe space. And the beauty and/or blunt callousness of which some of the endings are written only made this worse.

Either way, Aisle is such a fantastic experimental piece and a remarkable artistic achievement. Despite it's seemingly simple concept, it's a far deeper and more nuanced piece of game design than I originally thought on hearing about it. In fact, it's one of the most ingenious and creative pieces of game design in any game I have ever played.