This week's best free game, Unmanned, took me through a range of emotions. But the two prevailing ones - discomfort and regret - are feelings games usually struggle to hit. It's a fine example of interactive storytelling, engrossing and interesting, and you should play it immediately. Also on this week's list: a lengthy plod down some creepy stairs, a big Dwarf Fortress update, a tangle of limbs, and one kid's desire for five minutes of peace. Read on...
Play it on the dev's website
On one side of the screen, an interactive task. It could be playing Call of Duty, it could be shaving, or it could be something altogether more serious.
On the other side, dialogue choices. You steer the path of the stories Unmanned tells, selecting from multiple options at various points as the scenes progress.
From the mind of Italian indie dev Molleindustria, this is a quite extraordinary game, one about war, morality, love, confusion, the appropriateness of 18-rated videogames for children, behavioural disorders and workplace romance.
You're stationed in Afghanistan, but you return home at the weekends. What do you tell your wife during a phone conversation? What do you do with your kid during those precious moments you're not away? What do you truly believe about the situation in the Middle East? These are questions the game asks of you.
It also asks you to balance your talking with your actions. At multiple points, you'll be holding an in-depth conversation while concentrating on an important task. Maintaining a successful marriage of the two not only affects the course of the game, it also leads to additional achievements - ones that are given extra gravity by their context at the end of the game.
It's moving and thought-provoking, and challenging in more ways than one. Molleindustria's unique style is helped along by Jim Munroe's excellent writing and an understated soundtrack from Jesse Stiles. Absolutely brilliant.
A closed door. If you turn around at the start of the game, it'll be the last thing you see before you begin your descent in this bizarre and unnerving - or, perhaps, just lengthy and boring - staircase simulator.
It's based on a fantastically weird internet Wiki that I'll say no more about, in case you're not aware of it. Seek out The SCP Foundation if you're interested. I'd recommend going into SCP-087 blind if possible, though. If you do, you'll be left either bored rigid, or scared stiff.
Know that something happens. Eventually. It could take a minute, it could take an hour. If you're fond of the deliciously creepy, play as much as you can manage - whether that's to the 'end' or not - then hit up SCP for some chillingly brilliant tales.
The Love Letter
Play the game on its website
It's tough being the popular kid at school. You can never get any peace and quiet, it seems. But that's all you're asking for - just a minute to yourself so you can read the mysterious love note someone's left in your locker.
This fun five-minute game tasks you with evading your hordes of groupies as you try to read the letter your admirer has
you don't let anyone else see. That's quite difficult when tens of other kids are all vying for your attention.
You'll run around pixel-art corridors, trying your best not to draw attention to yourself. Class starts in five minutes, and whoever your admirer is, she wants you to meet her before then. This is cute, surprisingly challenging, and well worth those few moments of your time.
Bay 12 Games.
Download it, with a massive update, from the official site
The world's most intimidating free game is back with a vengeance this week. Dwarf Fortress, the famous roguelike society builder, got itself a huge Valentine's Day update that fixes an impressive number of bugs and adds a quite remarkable amount of content.
Eleven months in the making, the patch includes cities in Adventure Mode, fort defence against werewolves, zombie-infested tombs, a new navigation system and, oh my goodness,
so many other things
If you've tried Dwarf Fortress, you'll probably already know how much all this is likely to appeal. To the game's credit, despite being bigger than ever, the many tweaks and adjustments over the years have made it less terrifying than it used to be. Never played it? Concentrate hard on some tutorials, then give it a go. It's worth the experience, at least.
Play it on the developer's website
Bennett Foddy's QWOP, released a few years back, was an oddly hilarious game that saw you taking control of each individual limb of an olympic sprinter. The aim: finish the race, don't fall over your own legs.
Now he's released a two-player split-screen version, meaning this is now a game where a grand total of eight limbs must be individually manipulated at the same time.
2QWOP game won't work on some keyboards, thanks to multiple simultaneous button presses. That hasn't dulled my ambition to try controlling both runners at once, though. I have eight fingers, right? I can totally do this.