There are a lot of video games out right now, and more keep coming. This has been especially true since Madden 16 hit store shelves — a yearly release that, for whatever reason, works as a sort of "all clear" signal to other publishers that the floodgates are now open and games targeted at holiday season shoppers can make their way to stores.
I love games, so I would never complain about the volume of content (or the content in Volume. Ha! Game title jokes!) available to everybody right now. So instead of telling you a lot about a few games I'm going to tell you a little about a lot of games. A few hours here, a couple hours there ... Honestly, it's not a habit I recommend, and it's a trend I should try to break free from sooner rather than later.
It does, however, mean I have a lot of impressions to share about a variety of games you might be interested in.
Yoshi's Woolly World (Wii U)
One of the most adorable games of the year, Yoshi's Woolly World is best for the person who wants to sit down in front of their TV at the end of the day and relax, maybe with a second player on the couch (my wife and I played through some of Yoshi together). It's gameplay is extremely reminiscent of the Super Nintendo classic Yoshi's Island (you made jumps, you throw eggs... That's most of your skill set, right there), but the aesthetics are incredible. The game is made to look hand-crafted, with characters, enemies and platforms made of materials like yarn.
It's not the most challenging game you'll play (especially on the more casual difficulty setting), but if you want to make things more interesting you can go hunting for a variety of collectibles scattered throughout the levels.
Plus, a version of the game comes with an awesome amiibo Yoshi that's made of yarn, so there's that.
An addictive action game on both iOS and Steam, Downwell has you ... well ... going down a well. The catch? Your boots have guns on them.
The result is a fast, frantic vertical game full of monsters to kill (or dodge), items to find and weapons to use. You will probably die quickly and often, but it's so quick and easy to hop back in that you'll likely find yourself saying, "Well, just one more game."
It's also a mere $2.99, which is a fair price for how much you can get out of the experience.
Destiny: The Taken King (PS4, Xbox One, 360, PS3)
The Taken King is what Destiny should have been from the beginning.
I played a fair amount of Destiny when it came out last year, but the game lost me whenever I was forced to replay content I had seen before — which was often. Want to get better gear? Well, grind out these same two strike missions you've already played three times today and just hope you get lucky with a drop. Oh, look, a Legendary Engram! Maybe that will be a cool new g--nope, it's a set of gauntlets that aren't as good as the ones you already have.
The expansion pack fixes nearly all my problems with vanilla Destiny. There is a lot more to do (leading to content being repeated less often), loot drops are much smarter (making it more likely that you'll get something cool whenever you play) and, perhaps most importantly, there are surprises and mysteries to uncover, giving players something to work toward that isn't just the same linear FPS levels over and over again.
The only problem? It's a big investment. If you haven't played Destiny since its initial release (and thus haven't purchased its DLC packs, The Dark Below and The House of Wolves) then the cheapest way to get back in is to drop a full $60 — again — on the base game and all the add-on content. That's a bummer.
If you're a new player, though? There's never been a better time to make the investment. Destiny is finally worth $60.
NHL 16 (PS4, Xbox One, 360, PS3)
I don't play a lot of video games based on real sports, but I do enjoy hockey (particularly Dallas Stars hockey), so I have a soft spot in my heart for NHL video games.
This year's game from EA is much better than last year's (not a difficult feat, considering NHL 15 was pretty barebones), with a lot of fan-favorite features making a return. I've had a surprising amount of fun with the Be A Pro mode, which tasks you with playing as one — and only one — player throughout an entire season, taking advice from your coach in order to improve your play. You can fast-forward through parts of the game where your line isn't on the ice, or you can sit and watch your teammates to more accurately emulate the experience of being a single cog in the machine that is an NHL team.
Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash (3DS)
The Chibi-Robo series is neither a blockbuster hit nor particularly consistent, as the most recent games have been nothing like the original. So if you were one of the few people to play the GameCube game starring a charming little robot that sets out to clean up messes around a house then... Well, you still might like Zip Lash a lot, but it's a very different game.
Zip Lash is a 2D platformer with a grappling hook mechanic that might remind you a lot of the old school classic Bionic Commando. As Chibi-Robo you must jump and swing your way through a collection of levels, occasionally busting up aliens, collecting hidden, well-known snacks (like Tootsie Pops and Pocky) and solving a puzzle here and there.
Like Yoshi's Wooly World, this Nintendo game comes in an optional package with an amiibo figure. The amiibo functionality in the game is far from a requirement, but the figure itself is pretty rad.
Forza Motorsport 6 (Xbox One)
To be honest, I'm a bigger fan of the Forza Horizon series of more over-the-top, arcade-style racing than the more serious simulation found in Forza 6. That said, there's still a lot to like here, and you never have to touch the complex tuning tools to enjoy it.
Want to make Forza easier? Go for it. You won't win a lot of respect online, but you can enjoy yourself by casually racing in nice cars on some beautiful tracks. Like the last two Forza games, the other drivers on the road are the "Drivatars" of your friends (AI influenced by how they race, more or less), which helps give the game a sense of friendly competition even when you're not racing online in real-time.
Side note: The force feedback in the Xbox One controller makes a strong case for itself when you hit a particularly dangerous puddle of water while driving on a wet, rainy track. The triggers rumble in such a way that it impressively emulates the feeling you get through a steering wheel when hitting a puddle in a real car.
Volume (PC, PS4)
Do you miss the more simple days of stealth action games (original PlayStation and earlier), when Metal Gear Solid only asked you to sneak around a corner and maybe knock on the wall to get a guard's attention? Volume might be for you.
It goes back to stealth basics with a top-down view very reminiscent of that original MGS. It also sports a story that, while not mind-blowing, features some good voice acting from the likes of Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings' Gollum).
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer (3DS)
For some people — my wife included — all the fishing, bug hunting and other tasks of the Animal Crossing games serve just one purpose: They provide money for more furniture with which to decorate your house.
If that's you, than Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is right up your alley. If you want to do anything more than decorate houses casually, you'll find this spin-off to be incredibly shallow. There's no real challenge (animals seem to like the homes you design for them whether you actually follow their requests or not), but there is a lot of furniture to play with. The touch screen controls also work well, allowing you to quickly and easily drag and drop whatever you need to make your home design pop.
King's Quest (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
If you grew up playing adventure games in the early days of home computers, you might have a lot of fond memories of King's Quest. This new game (of which the first of five chapters is available now, with the rest to follow) retells those classic stories with more modern gameplay conventions. The result is funny, charming and a lot of fun.
An episodic, lighthearted fantasy, King's Quest is (so far) one of the best adventure games I've played in several years. It takes a very similar approach to the genre as games from Telltale (The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Tales from the Borderlands), but it throws a dash of more old school inventory management into the mix.
Christopher Lloyd narrates the story in a very Princess Bride-esque fashion, telling the tales of his youth and his journey to becoming king. The plot is filled with some great humor, much of it subtle, and some clever puzzles. The hero, Graham, is a thinking man rather than someone who's especially great with a sword, so solving his problems will require a bit of brainpower.