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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."
  • 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. The woman is Clare, and you're married, just taking a moment to reflect on your shared past.
  • 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.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Dance with Woman.
    "Come on—a dance? Shake your bones—"
    Whoops. That doesn't mean to dance, does it?