When I heard about the indie game, Max an Autistic Journey, I just knew I had to experience it, not because it was the next big AAA, blow-your-mind-graphically kind of game. Its not. In fact, its a retro-style RPG. I had to play it because it was a personal game to me. The game was created by Stéphane Cantin, who happens to be the father of an autistic boy. From what I understand, he created this game for his boy. As a father of a child on the spectrum, this game really hit home. There where moments that just stayed with me long after I finished the game. I had to stop for a moment to catch my breath as I watched little Max start to shake uncontrollably because his anxiety was too high. Having seen this happen personally, my heart just sank. I knew I was in for something special.
The graphics are simple and clean. The game looks like a 16 bit retro RPG. The art is good, especially when you see the character dialogue boxes. There is really nothing fancy about the graphics, but they did their job well. I enjoyed the magic and special effects even though they are really simple. My guess is that this game was made with RPG maker. There is nothing wrong with that, if its true. In fact, I once tried to make a game with RPG maker and just did not have the patience. Either way, I did quite enjoy the look of this game.
This is where the game really shines for me. I will say this, the game scored so high because I related so well to it. The story is about Max, who is diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), and the anxieties he faces in everyday life. Max uses his imagination to deal with life. As someone who, as mentioned above, has a child on the spectrum as well as helps kids and adults who are also on the spectrum to various degrees, this story truly touched me. I really loved that there were notes laying around that you could read and Stephane Cantin took the time to explain various elements of ASD and how it effects his son. I learned a lot through these notes, even though I deal with ASD on a daily basis.
Before I continue, I feel I should explain what I mean by being “on the spectrum”. Many of you probably already know, but please bear with me as I explain to those who may not know. “The spectrum” simply means there a various degrees of Autism, from very high functioning to really low functioning. “The spectrum” refers to the range between both low and high functioning kids/adults.
There are some really funny and endearing moments in the game, like when Max becomes fixated on his brothers mustache. There is so much truth and honesty to the way the dialogue flows. There are so many moments that made me think and feel compassion for those with ASD. There are a lot of moments when Max does something and I would just grin because I have seen similar things happen in my day-to-day interactions with my ASD friends. You can tell that this was a personal game for Stephane, because he really knew what he was talking about. There is such obvious love for Max in the game, that I knew it had to come from a father who truly loved his son.
Audio – 8/10
I love the 16 bit music in this game. Everything fits well and sounds like the retro RPGs it seems to mimic. This isn’t an epic orchestral soundtrack. It’s a very pleasant sounding 16 bit soundtrack. For me that’s enough. I loved everything from the menu sounds to the battle sounds.
Gameplay – 8/10
I really enjoyed the old school battles in Max. When you battle, you see the battle menu and Max’s portrait along with anyone else in his party and the static images of the monsters you were fighting. They really mix up the gameplay as well. The other “mini” games were quite fun and broke up the monotony of leveling up by fighting monster after monster. This is not an easy game if you don’t go into battles leveled up. I had a lot of fun leveling up and getting stronger so I could take on tougher monsters and bosses.
Family Friendly rating 10/10
There is nothing bad here at all. Max is likable and this game can be played by kids and adults alike. It’s an easy recommendation for its family friendliness.
I am so grateful for this game. Thank you Stephen, for creating a fun game that will help people get a better understanding of ASD. Games can be such a powerful medium to share common struggles and victories. Max is really a special character, much like those who are on the spectrum. Those who have ASD can be some of the most brilliant minds on this planet. They see the world differently then you and I. We should not shun them for this, but embrace them. When you sit down and talk with them you come to realize what a beautiful mind they truly have. I would recommend checking out Max: An Autistic Journey. Even if you think it is not your type of game, you are helping out a great cause since some of the proceeds go to a great charity, the Miriam Foundation. I get nothing for telling you this. I just think its a great charity.