hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Indie Nation #48: Aisle

2:20 PM on 01.30.2009 // Anthony Burch

I don't consider myself at all knowledgeable about text adventures, but it bears mentioning that of the dozen or so I've played to completion, I've totally fallen in love with at least three. 

My favorite of the three is Photopia. My third favorite is Gun Mute. This week, I'll focus on the remaining game.

Aisle is one of the shortest text adventures ever, and also one of the longest.  If you want to know what makes the game so damned interesting, you'll probably figure it out for yourself if you just follow the link and type something -- anything -- in.

If you're horrendously lazy, however, you can just hit the jump as I explain why I like it so much. 

[Thanks to sbshootme for suggesting this in the Photopia Indie Nation.]

The first few times I played through Aisle, I tended to make the protagonist do or think negative things. I don't know if this was due to my life situation at the time, or if that's just the way I approach videogames, but I assumed that (despite the disclaimer at the beginning of the game) there was really only one protagonist, and by entering in different things I was simply getting different reactions out of the same guy while learning more about his singular past.

When I, on a whim, decided to "find Clare," and I actually did, I was initially bummed out. I wanted the game to be a story of misery and loneliness and regret, and all I have to do is "smile" or "call Clare" to make it happy? What a cop-out, I thought. 

Though I still feel the game overwhelmingly tends to lean toward the more tragic side of things, making those few happiness-inducing commands feel random and surprising, I don't mind the fact that there isn't just one protagonist, just one story. Aisle, unlike other text adventures, doesn't ask the player to partake in a role so much as it asks us to explore the possibilities of a single moment, suspended in time. Whatever suggestion we give to the storyteller creates an entire universe of context and consequence in which that action fits. 

Though I initially wanted the action "call Clare" to result in the protagonist helplessly shouting her name to the heavens before collapsing in a sobbing heap of pasta and hate, I kind of dig the fact that somewhere, somehow, there's a version of the protagonist who, somehow, achieved happiness. His happiness may not be as easily found as his misery (which is, in its own way, a pretty honest description of reality), but it's still hidden there, somewhere. There are a million lives and a million stories, and some of them turn out differently than others (I didn't even find the "scooter accident" backstory until replaying it today for the purposes of writing this article).

Leaving the thematic and narrative stuff to the side for a moment, Aisle is more successful than most interactive fictions I've played because it doesn't have to deal with any of the major problems associated with so many IFs -- there's no inventory management, no spatial navigation, no constant irritation that the parser won't recognize what you want it to do. The parser is still relatively limited, of course, but given the game's focus on this single moment in time, almost any believable action (and a few unbelievable) will elicit some sort of individual response, and that immediate feedback will make you want to play again and again and again. Where the worst text adventures feel like LucasArts adventure games with all the graphics removed, Aisle is something that could not be done in any other medium.

It may not be a "game" so much as a piece of interactive story exploration (like Photopia), but it's "games" like this (and again, Photopia) that made me realize I don't mind interactive stories. There are no rules or goals in Aisle, but it does what it does so effectively and imaginatively that I don't find myself wringing my hands over its non-gameness the way I did with The Graveyard.

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

Status updates from C-bloggers

Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Today I replated bacteria that I made take up a plamid hopefully stitched onto the genes generatlight. Taken from other dead bacteria and put into a non glowing species, to make it glow. Fucking microbiology is the best.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
It seems fairy farts are a fragrance, a soap, incense, a vaping liquid and a kind of nail polish. I'm clearly in the wrong line of work and need to eat more chili.
Cannibal Steven avatarCannibal Steven
"You gave the Lost Soul a big smile, like you remember she likes to do... For some reason she sort of wants to smile back..." I'm not crying. Not one bit.
ChrisHannard avatarChrisHannard
Just tried 'The Last Of Us' on PSNow Trial, only to be told... 'Something went wrong. Try again.' Game-appropriate error message or quickie plot-summary?
TheAngriestCarp avatarTheAngriestCarp
I hate when people say crap like "I admit that [thing] in games is problematic, but I still enjoy it" because it's an underhanded way of contradicting your own views while convincing yourself that you aren't a hypocrite.
ChillyBilly avatarChillyBilly
Well shit. I knew I was more than likely going to enjoy Star Wars Battlefront (cause you know, giant Star Wars nerd and all) but holy cow, the beta is fucking great! I need the full game like, now.
SpielerDad avatarSpielerDad
Anyone here going to NYC Comic Con? Always wanted to go and lived so close, but alas, it wasn't meant to be.
Mark Plechaty avatarMark Plechaty
Well I haven't seen any levels like this on mario maker so maybe it's unique the I'd is 55BD000000961CBA GIVE IT A GO and let me know what you think
Jiraya avatarJiraya
Hey Stranger ... wadda you buying ? Want some crack ? Here ya go... [youtube][/youtube]
Sr Churros avatarSr Churros
My brother caught me this Pokémon in our room yesterday. How should I name it? [img][/img]
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Yay, I got off of work early and may have Friday off! I have a sinking feeling I'm going to work 10 hours on Saturday as a result, though :/ We ran out of stuff to make stuff with so they must ship us stuff so we can ship stuff.
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Yo yo I'm Marie and I got dat gangsta flow. High scores ain't no trip, cuz I whip that shit like Sonic quick. I-I mean no! I didn't say anything! Stupidrecordbreakingcombodolt. [img][/img]
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
I'm watching you.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
SkarKrow avatarSkarKrow
Work noooooooooooooooooo D:
The Dyslexic Laywer avatarThe Dyslexic Laywer
I had such a awkward time playing Catherine because it shared the same name as my mother....
JayDGee avatarJayDGee
Broforce is coming out of early access on the 15th. I had no Idea it was an early access game.
James Internet Ego avatarJames Internet Ego
I have now played all 3 Witcher games. My verdict: Witcher 1 - alright, aged badly, lots of sex. Witcher 2 - good, very short, not much sex at all. Witcher 3 - Excellent in every way.
ikiryou avatarikiryou
I really wish MGO had been implemented with free-roam gameplay PMC (clan) setup instead of the standard matchmaking. Imagine roaming bands of PMC's opposing each other on the battlefield. How sexy would that be?
SkarKrow avatarSkarKrow
Playing Shantae & The Pirates Curse, must say I'm loving it for the most part, barring the odd WHERE AM I D: moment
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -