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Video Game / Aisle

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You are about to read a story. Or rather, part of a story. 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. But be warned; there are many stories and not all of the stories are about the same man.
— Opening screen narration

Aisle is a 1999 Interactive Fiction game by Sam Barlow. The setting and concept are simple: you control a character standing in an aisle of the supermarket. In each play-through, you may type one and only one command; the game responds with a short snippet of story about the main character. But as the opening narration implies, many of the stories are mutually contradictory, which gives the sense of hopping between Alternate Universes on each reload. Can be downloaded or played in-browser: IFDB (both), iFiction (in-browser). Not to be confused with Pick Up the Phone Booth and Aisle, which parodies this game's one-move mechanic.

NOTE: Due to the game's short length, all spoilers are unmarked. You Have Been Warned.

Aisle contains examples of:

  • Cluster F-Bomb: Swear results in your character becoming angry and saying "fuck" and "shit" a bunch, capping it off with "fucking shit."
  • Gainax Ending: Some of the creepier endings imply that the protagonist is mentally unstable, but leave it ambiguous what exactly is going on. For instance, if you type "Gibber", you get this:
    Foam gurgles on the edges of your lips as you cease to monitor their output,
    "GnocchiOh!Oh!GnocchideGato!Clare--je t'aime--Iwillalways
    gnocchish. G'night!"
    You bow out without a fight—the right thing to do; just like she would have wanted—if only—right? But the train doesn't stop in time. Always comes back to the potato. He smiles, "Gnog Gnog Gnoch pot pot."
  • Golden Ending: Not that there can really be such a thing in this game, but one ending has your character much happier than most of them. In the Smile ending, you're grocery shopping with Clare, who you are now happily married to, reminiscing on your shared past in Rome together.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: The protagonist will do this if you choose "cry" as your chosen action.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot
  • Madness-Induced Omnivore: You can command the player character to eat the uncooked pasta straight off the supermarket shelves. He will do so, deluding himself into thinking that he is back in Rome, eating delicious cooked pasta.
    The pasta is a seething mass of off-white food. You tear at the plastic bags until the curls and tubes and twists and shells cascade onto the floor and into your hands. Scooping up a collection of different shapes you cram the pasta into your mouth. It is dry, it is hard. That's what your body is saying. But you learnt something a while back—that your body (your eyes, your hands, your heart) isn't always right. No, you've learnt to listen to your mind. And your minds says: soft, warm, slightly salty pasta. Tangy sauce. What a feast!
    They spoil your fun, they take you away—or so your body says. Your mind knows better; you're still in Rome eating pasta, drinking wine—everything is fine.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Many of the potential backstories contradict each other. In some, Clare left the player character, or she died of an accident, or illness, or suicide, or at the hands of the player character. In some she is alive and well and they are together.
  • Multiple Endings: Each action brings a different ending, and the vast majority of them are bittersweet or downers.
  • Posthumous Character: In some endings, Clare is already dead.
    • In the Sleep, Scream and Jump endings, it's implied that she died in an accident after getting hit by a motorized scooter, which the protagonist narrowly avoids by jumping out of the way, unable to grab Clare before doing so.
    • In the Remember Clare's illness route, it's implied she passed away before the story of cancer.
    • In the Remember Clare's murder route, she's dead of an extremely brutal, bloody murder.
      • If you choose to tell the woman in the aisle about it, it's implied that you were the one who killed her.
    • In the Remember suicide route, she slit her wrists in the bathtub after a vacation with the protagonist.
  • Red Herring: The woman isn't Clare. Unless she is.
  • Schrödinger's Butterfly: Invoked in the Dream ending, wherein the protagonist contemplates what it means that he daydreams so often throughout his daily life via invoking the story of the man dreaming of being a butterfly.
  • Slice of Life
  • That Came Out Wrong: Dance with Woman.
    "Come on—a dance? Shake your bones—"
    Whoops. That doesn't mean to dance, does it?