There is a very high or likely chance that you know someone with Autism or Autistic Spectrum Disorder (here on called: ASD), after all according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that 1 of every 63 children are diagnosed with the Disorder. It is something that every parent fears and seems like a growing issue.
But just because someone has Autism or ASD, doesn’t mean that they can’t live a good life. This seems to be the main message of Max, An Autistic Journey, developed by Stéphane Cantin, a devoted dad whose child, Max, was diagnosed with ASD which in turn inspired him to create a game about Max and some of the issues and struggles that he has to go through each day.
The game starts by letting us know this with a flashback to when the parents find out that their child is on the spectrum, and that the family intends to do everything they can to make sure that Max has a happy life. We then fast-forward to Max at 10-years old and follow him through a day in his life, which involves fighting with his attention difficulties, nightmares, anger, and more.
Created as an old-school RPG in the veins of Earthbound, players take control of Max throughout the day, gaining friends and party members to help him through his troubles. Max’s over-imagination sometimes get the better of him, making him imagine various scenarios in which he must fight. To do so Max uses various every day items such as a Flashlight, building blocks, and earmuffs to do damage, protect allies or to cancel out spells from opponents.
Due to his ASD, Max must try to keep focus on the tasks at hand, to help him with this, he has Picto cards, which tell him what he needs to do and when to do it. Picking up these cards give players a hint of what needs to be done and explains how this helps children with Autism, giving a more in-depth and educational look at the disorder.
One of the main mechanics to build the game’s story is Max’s temper, players will see Max’s Temper as a gauge in the top right corner of the screen. This will lead to Max throwing a tantrum in which he needs to come out of, this is usually solved with anger settling techniques like breathing, which is represented in a small minigame in which players have to click on a series of icons to calm down. However, at times it does allow his imagination to run wild and create dungeons for players to explore and attempt to get out of.
Despite its Educational merits, as a game, Max does have some faults. During my playthrough I hit several moments when the game crashed on me for no reason and required me to reset. Other issues were focused on balancing the combat as some peon fights went on as long as boss battles, as well as no visible use for the Gold collected.
Max, An Autistic Journey sets out to do exactly what it is intended, a small educational game that is easy for people to pick up and play, and deliver a solid message about Autism while teaching how people with the disorder live their lives. I’ve actually come out of the game know more which may help me in the future if I take care or have a kid with the disorder.