Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Max: An Autistic Journey

Go To

Max: An Autistic Journey is a retro-style RPG by Stéphane Cantin, which deals with a day in the life of Max, an autistic boy based on Cantin's own son.

The game shows Max struggling to get through his day, with various RPG-style segments and mini-games in which the player deals with various problems, from getting dressed to navigating the school, the way Max imagines them.

The game is currently available on Steam. You can find it here.

In fact, this game has examples of:

  • 11th-Hour Ranger: Charles and Elisabeth join the party during the power outage, the last part of the game.
  • An Aesop: In the end, the message of the game is that parents should love their autistic children because their children love them, even if it's not always clear that they do.
  • Aloof Big Brother: While Max doesn't seem to notice, it's obvious to the player that his brother Jimmy is somewhat annoyed, but mostly confused by Max's atypical behavior. He at least tries to be nice to Max, though, making this a downplayed example.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: In the Max's Birthday DLC, there's a brief portion where the player controls Max's father, due to Max being in a state of coulrophobia-induced panic from the party clown.
  • Animal Lover: Max plays with dinosaur toys, likes learning about animals, and hesitates about killing a spider.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Max has ADHD in addition to his autism, and fitting the game, this is portrayed more realistically than most examples. For example, when Max is getting his things ready for school, he is distracted by his dinosaur toys and imagines a scenario where he has to fight them to save his backpack. Max spends so long playing that he would have been late for school if his dad hadn't intervened.
  • Butt-Monkey: Mathis ends up suffering misfortune, such as Max taking his earmuffs (In all fairness, Max did legitimately think that Mathis stole his).
  • The Cameo: Jon Snow, Ygritte and Ghost all appear in the block world.
  • Disappeared Dad: It's unclear what happened to the father of Gege's children, Elisabeth and Charles.
  • Downloadable Content: The game has a brief scenario focusing on Max's birthday, which can be purchased for a dollar.
  • Dreaded Kids' Party Entertainer Job: In the Max's Birthday DLC, the manager at the fast food restaurant dresses up as a clown to entertain Max and his friends for Max's birthday party. Unfortunately, he doesn't count on four of the kids (including Max himself) being afraid of him. They all start panicking and running around. The manager is shocked and runs away, forcing the player to control Max's dad to talk to each kid and calm them down.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The game takes place over the course of a single day, starting when Max wakes up and ending with a late-night power outage. The DLC also takes place on a single day, namely Max's birthday.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: The enemies in Max's imagination include all sorts of creatures, from slimes, to dinosaurs, to aliens, and more. Justified because these monsters are all in the mind of a very imaginative young boy who just wants to have fun, and isn't concerned with sticking to a specific genre.
  • Forgets to Eat: Max sometimes forgets lunch, so his father has to send him a pictogram to remind him.
  • Genre Savvy: When the Nightmare has seemingly been defeated, Jimmy says that things aren't usually this easy in games. Shortly thereafter, you face his final form, Electric Death.
  • Good Parents: Max's father and stepmother care a great deal for him and the rest of their children.
  • Good Stepmother: Both Gege and Stef are shown as being good parents to their stepchildren- respectively Max and Jimmy, and Charles and Elisa.
  • The Grim Reaper: Electric Death, the Final Boss.
  • Grumpy Old Man: After the clown scares Max and his friends, an old man at the fast food place complains about the youth of today. Playing as Max's father, you can choose a few different responses, from reasoning with him to telling him off.
  • Guide Dang It!: For the presentation, you have to be able to pick out the true facts about the emperor penguins, which is difficult unless you look it up or happen to know your subject very well.
  • Heroic BSoD: Max goes into one after being sent to the relaxation room.
  • I Have No Idea What I'm Doing: The King of Monsters somehow appears in the video game he and Jimmy are playing.note  Max asks him what he's doing in the game, and the King of Monsters says he doesn't know, looking equally confused.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Max complains about this while in the relaxation room.
  • Imaginary Friend: Max's "King of Monsters" animatronic toy is Max's constant companion, appearing via Max's imagination everywhere Max goes, giving him advice and calming him down when he's stressed. He's basically Max's conscience as a separate character.
  • Innocently Insensitive: As a result of his autism making it difficult to understand others, Max ends up saying some fairly mean things, like making fun of a blind classmate.
  • Interface Spoiler: If you look in the Steam Achievements section and see that you haven't gotten some of the Pictograms yet, you're not done with the game yet.
  • Jump Scare: In the blackout segment, whenever Max picks up a battery, the player will be greeted with a brief jumpscare, with a creepy face popping up and a high-pitched scream, leading to a battle. Some of the enemies in these battles are actually called Jumpscares, and they're depicted as ghouls with screaming faces.
  • Kids Love Dinosaurs: The game's protagonist, an autistic boy named Max, loves all sorts of animals and monsters, but seems to love dinosaurs the most. In addition to his multiple other dinosaur toys, his favorite toy and imaginary friend is a Not Zilla called the "King of Monsters."
  • Kids Shouldn't Watch Horror Films: Subverted. Max mentions that his father doesn't want him playing Five Nights at Freddy's (a horror game with frequent jumpscares and disturbing imagery), but Max isn't bothered by the game at all, and even loves Freddy Fazbear, the game's Mascot Villain, enough to have a plushie of him.
  • Lack of Empathy: Downplayed, but Max often doesn't understand how others feel when he says the things he does.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: In-Universe. The "King of Monsters" toy normally serves as an imaginary friend to Max, but briefly plays the role of an antagonist in two of Max's imagination sequences. In the first of these, the KOM takes Max's schoolbag hostage. In the second, Max summons him to fight him.
  • Mini-Game: There are several, such as the recurring breathing mini-game to calm Max, driving to or from school, playing the psaltery, a racing game with Charles and an optional "Vaccination" shmup.
  • Missing Mom: Max's mother is never mentioned outside of the opening scene in which his parents learn that he has autism. In the present, Max's father is dating a woman named Gege, so it's implied he divorced Max's mother.
  • Money for Nothing: There's no place to spend the money, so apart from getting an achievement for 200,000 coins, there's no reason to earn money. The DLC has an item shop at the fast food place, but since this is after the last battle, you can't use what you buy.
  • Mr. Imagination: Max takes ordinary life situations and imagines him and his friends fighting monsters and going on adventures throughout. The exposition near the beginning even mentions that Max is creative and imaginative.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Max gets through ordinary life situations by pretending that he's fighting monsters.
  • No Antagonist: This game is about an autistic boy going through an ordinary day, and fighting imaginary foes. The closest thing to a real-world antagonist is a bully who briefly picks on Max at school, but is taken away by the teachers for a talking-to.
  • No Social Skills: Max. Some of his bad behavior that isn't due to acting in anger is due to not realizing that what he's doing is wrong.
  • Noob Cave: Max's clothing drawer is the first dungeon. While Max is the only party member you have, the enemies aren't especially challenging, and the dungeon is fairly small.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: When Max gets to school, he realizes that his earmuffs are missing. He sees his classmate, Mathis, wearing earmuffs, and assumes that Mathis stole them from him. Max takes the earmuffs from Mathis rather aggressively, only to learn that the earmuffs really did belong to Mathis.
  • Not Zilla: The "King of Monsters," a large Godzilla-like toy which is both Max's favorite toy and an imaginary friend of sorts to him. Due to the game being based on real people, it's possible that this is a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo for an actual Godzilla toy.
  • One-Winged Angel: The Final Boss has three different forms.
  • Picky Eater: Max doesn't particularly enjoy mushrooms.
  • Random Encounters: Averted. Combat begins when you run into the monsters wandering around, and the game uses the lack of random encounters as a selling point.
  • Running Gag:
    • Max telling everyone that his brother has a mustache.
    • In the DLC, at the start of each of the encounters, Jimmy makes three animal-related puns. Max finds the first two funny, but doesn't get or like the third.
  • Sanity Meter: Played with. The game has a meter showing Max's mood, on a scale from calm to panicking. Since this is a "day in the life" story rather than a horror game, the things that make Max's meter go up are mundane, such as being late for school or getting in trouble with his teacher. This is intended to show non-autistic players that things that seem mundane to them can be terrifying to people on the autism spectrum. Also, the meter is only affected by story events, not by gameplay. When the meter goes too high up, the player will often have to play a minigame where they help Max breathe slowly to calm down.
  • Self-Harm: Max is tempted to do this at his lowest point, but luckily, the King of All Monsters talks him out of it.
  • Shout-Out
  • Sore Loser: Max can be this if you lose to Charles.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: During the preparation for his presentation, Max talks to several emperor penguins for information about their kind.
  • Status Effects: Party members can get poisoned, confused, silenced, put to sleep or stunned.
  • Summon Magic: Max's strongest Special is the ability to summon the King of All Monsters.
  • This Is Reality: In the DLC, Max searches for a cure for his father's allergies so that he can get a pet for his birthday. Elisa tells him as kindly as she can that it isn't possible to cure allergies.
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Max does this if he wins against Charles in the race.
  • Verbal Tic:
    • In fact, Max likes to begin many of his sentences with "In fact." In fact, the King of Monsters does this too. Justified because he's a product of Max's imagination.
    • And so, Alex begins most sentences with "And so" as well.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Max gets a few of these.
    • When Max realizes that he stole Mathis' earmuffs, Mrs. Caroline makes Max apologize to Mathis in front of the class.
    • When Max insults Mathis and then loses his temper, he's sent to the relaxation room and later gets a stern lecture from Mrs. Caroline.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Max bravely fights all sorts of monsters in his imagination, and he's not afraid at all of Five Nights at Freddy's, a horror game. But the Max's Birthday DLC reveals that he is terrified of clowns.