DescriptionA common criticism of adventure games generally and works of interactive fiction specifically is that they oftentimes suffer from what have been characterized as "read-the-designer's-mind" puzzles -- making necessary apparently arbitrary (and sometimes seemingly absurd) actions that produce unreasonable-to-expect results; the puzzles look kosher in a walkthrough but only make sense to a player after the fact, knowing of their implausible effect. Aisle is the inverse: the designer has instead had to read the player's mind, predicting which actions, likely or unlikely, the player is apt to attempt in the somewhat under-stimulating environment (certainly an unusually pedestrian game setting) of the Italian foods section of a supermarket late one Thursday night.
The designer of any gaming environment will of course be expected to have some plan regarding how the player will interact with it, but here the rules are a bit askew from the convention: rather than the player wandering the market and interacting with objects contained there in the conventional adventuring fashion, gradually coming to some understanding of the game world and the forces motivating his passage through it, this game permits the player only a single move... that move triggering a memory, hinting at a roiling and turbulent backstory that can only be more fully appreciated by unlocking more recollections. But the story cannot progress; upon completion of the single move, the protagonist leaves the market and the game concludes -- then restarts, giving the player another crack at glimpsing another, parallel facet of the memories the shelves of pasta provoke. As the introductory blurb states: "You will be asked to define the story by controlling one instant in the life of the man whose story it is. Your intervention will begin and end the story."
This game is in some senses more akin to an advent calendar, a suite of one-shot surprises, than to its text adventure game brethren: a given game session will yield precisely one of 136 micro-narratives consisting entirely of a static prelude, one instance of valid player input and one response to that input. There are no wrong answers or mistakes to be made: there are only lots of answers, and the closest you can come to winning is in determining how to trigger as many of the endings as possible, so as to arrive as closely as you can to envisioning the scenario presented by the grand puzzle with all of its pieces in.
"The end of the story. The end of a story. But not the only story..."
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InnovationsThe new paradigm of the "one-move game" this game engendered was seen by some as similarly groundbreaking as the "one-room game" concept pioneered by 1996's Pick Up the Phone Booth and Die, eventually yielding a collaborative synthesis in 2001's Pick Up the Phone Booth and Aisle.
- XYZZY Awards
- 1999 - Best Use of Medium
- 1999 - Finalist in "Best Individual PC" category
- 1999 - Finalist in "Best Story" category
Related Web Sites
- Aisle @ Baf's Guide to the IF Archive (A review and free, legal download of the game.)
- Aisle @ ifiction.org (Play the game online.)
- Aisle Walkthrough (A comprehensive listing of the one-hundred-thirty-six separate actions the player can take to produce distinct ending-responses.)
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