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Hohokum makes me nostalgic for PlayStation’s bolder days

If you watched today’s Annapurna Interactive Showcase, you might have left scratching your head over one of the stream’s announcements: Hohokum is available now on PC. No one could blame you if you’ve never heard of it before. The art game featuring a kite-like character moving through colorful worlds was released in 2014 for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PS Vita. In a left-field move, Annapurna Interactive ended its Sony exclusivity by bringing it to PC eight years later.

When I tested out the PC version on my Steam Deck ahead of its surprise launch, I was instantly transported back to a not-so-distant time that feels ancient today. Hohokum is a relic of a bolder Sony era, one where it wasn’t afraid to take gambles on titles of all shapes and sizes. It’s a firm reminder of how quickly the video game industry has changed in a decade, as major publishers like Sony target bankable mass appeal over niche experiments.

Fly with me

Hohokum is an abstract game that plays like an interactive art exhibit. Players control a serpent creature that flies around colorful 2D levels like a kite. Toy-like interactions dot its various levels, as players can bounce into objects, look for hidden eyes, and do some light puzzle solving that requires minimal interaction. Some levels are simply made up of abstract shapes, while others paint more of a picture book mini-scene.

Characters ride a ferris wheel-like structure in Hohokum.

It’s a simple, zen-like experience. I lost track of time as I sailed from level to level taking in the vibrant illustrations and bopping along to its excellent soundtrack. While it’s certainly not the first art game of its kind, you can make a clear connection from Hohokum to recent games like Ynglet or this year’s Please, Touch the Artwork.

But what’s especially surprising about the title is that it was originally a Sony-published game. I got a shock when I saw Sony Santa Monica’s logo pop up on screen and remembered that the God of War studio helped bring the indie to PlayStation. According to Annapurna Interactive, the studio has a few staffers who worked at Sony Santa Monica and were involved with the original release of Hohokum, allowing the company to work out a licensing deal with Sony.

Still, the niche title just isn’t the type of game you expect to see sporting a Sony logo. Or at least, it’s not anymore. Sony’s publishing strategy has radically changed since Hohokum’s release in 2014. That year, the publisher had a hand in putting out dozens of games. Some were tentpole titles like LittleBigPlanet 3 and Infamous Second Son. Others were smaller indies like Resogun and The Unfinished Swan. The list is massive compared to Sony’s list of 2022 games, which only features a small handful of new releases from bankable franchises like Gran Turismo and Horizon.

You can especially feel the difference in Sony’s publishing cadence by taking a trip through PS Plus’ retro games library. It’s impossible to imagine Sony putting its name on a game like Fantavision, a bizarre PS2 puzzle game about igniting fireworks, in 2022. The company has tightened its focus in recent years, keeping its sights set on large-scale AAA projects with broad appeal. Even more left-field projects like Returnal and Death Stranding look positively glitzy next to modest games like LocoRoco and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.

A kite-like creature flies around an elephant in Hohokum.

It makes financial sense that the company would want to invest in a few surefire hits a year over two dozen gambles, but Hohokum does make me a little nostalgic for that riskier Sony energy. PlayStation used to be a haven for deep cuts like this that were genuinely surprising. Those games still exist on PS5 (see the console-exclusive Stray), but third-party companies like Annapurna Interactive are the ones handling publishing duties. Sony seems more interested in loading its first-party library with massive open-world games, Marvel blockbusters, and an impending wave of money-making live-service games.

If that’s the direction Sony is settling into permanently, I’m at least glad that we’re getting a resurgence of charming games like Hohokum right now. With so many hidden gems in Sony’s publishing library that were easy to miss the first time around, what’s old can still feel entirely new.

Hohokum is available on PC now.

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