Have You Played… Aisle?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Aisle is one of my favourite games. It’s a snapshot of a life in progress that unfolds into a complex character study that you can guide toward tragedy, farce, drama, thriller or romance. The confines within which it operates – a text adventure in which a single action can be taken on each playthrough – are as strict as any I can think of, but from the restrictions of that stage it gestures toward distant cities and a storehouse of memories. You should take some time to play it right now.

On to the next aisle.

The setup is mundane, recognisable. As the game begins, on the cusp of its own ending, there is no major crisis, no great decision to be made on the spur of the moment. A man is browsing the aisles of a supermarket. He considers the gnocchi.

You type, you make him buy that gnocchi. Or you make him dance, or interact with other shoppers, or take off all his clothes, or cry, or laugh, or run into the streets. Or remember. One action and it’s all over…

Except it isn’t, of course, because he’s back there again, in the aisle, considering the gnocchi. And maybe you know a little more about him now and can act appropriately, or cause him to dwell on the things you have learned. Maybe you can create that major crisis the game was missing, or solve a crisis from the past. The world is your oyster, within and without those aisles. The world is your gnocchi.

15 Comments

  1. Viroso says:

    Clare’s there

  2. trout says:

    i’m sure it’s evocative and meaningful, but the interactive fiction format just infuriates me – i never know how to parse the correct imputs to make stuff happen! i almost think just writing a story, or perhaps a choose your own adventure type format would be more intuitive than gating content behind such old-school (obsolete?) mechanics

    • Chiron says:

      Indeed, what are my options to type here? What directions can I go?

      Either I get INVALID INPUT or get fed up and do something stupid like hit the brunette out of childish frustration.

      And now I feel like an utter shit for doing so, thanks devs.

      • phlebas says:

        The aisle stretches to the north, and back to the south. The shelves on either side of you block your view of the rest of the supermarket, with only the brightly coloured aisle markers visible.

        So you could try going North or South. You only get one move, though, so going either way is unlikely to be the most interesting thing you can do. Coming up with things to try, seeing what response you get and whether it maybe suggests something else you could do, is the whole of the game.

  3. Just a Sean says:

    Once you’ve played Aisle, be sure to play the parody, Pick Up The Phone Booth And Aisle! (You can also play Pick Up The Phone Booth And Die, which is the other game Pick Up The Phone Booth And Aisle is ribbing, but it’s not strictly necessary.)

    If you want a more traditionally puzzly One Turn Game, there’s Rematch, which gives you one move in which to stop an SUV from crashing through the windows of a pool hall and killing you and your friends.

    • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

      I came (long pause) to this comment section to recommend those. PUTPBAA just might be the text adventure with the most authors ever.

    • Yglorba says:

      Pick Up The Phone Both and Aisle is excellent, yes. Although I would caution that a lot of its jokes are based on having some experience with IF history, so someone who hasn’t been following it might sometimes be a bit confused. (Not that it’s a big deal, I suppose, since the game doesn’t really require understanding and is fairly absurdist to begin with.)

  4. GameCat says:

    It’s worth noting that Sam Barlow also wrote Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, one of the best horror games ever made.

  5. BooleanBob says:

    I enjoyed it, but the way some endings contradicted each other always bugged me. It seemed like a great concept executed ever so slightly wrongly, or an almost great concept executed really well, or something. ‘unno.

    • Alistair Hutton says:

      The endings contradicting each other is the point of Aisle. Your action doesn’t just define the future it also defines the past.

      That first hint that something is wrong, to the avalanche of more and more depressing realities until eventually you realise they can’t all be true and then, the revelation. The realisation that you are changing reality and that you can get a happy ending just by willing it so.

    • Alistair Hutton says:

      “there are many stories and not all of the stories are about the same man. “

  6. CaiusCaligula says:

    It is not, nor will it be, as good as Pick Up The Phone Booth and Aisle.

  7. clorex says:

    I managed to piece together that Clare got into an accident, suffered some kind of illness, and that you murdered her (brutally, apparently). But how are these events related?

    • purex. says:

      This might come a bit late now but those events are not related. Each time, what you in that moment choose for the man defines his reality. It’s more eloquently explained in comments above, though.