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I am haunted by a smug and terrible child in Temtem

Smell ya later, Max

Temtem - The player speaks to Max, the rival Temtem tamer. Image: Crema via Polygon
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

Temtem is an adorable alternative to the Pokémon games, with MMO elements. I’m still new to the world, and I’m enjoying running around with my cute lion friend and taming a wide variety of the titular creatures known as Temtem. There’s just one thorn in my side: my rival, Max. You might think the point of a rival is to challenge me and enable my own personal growth, but Max doesn’t inspire me to do any of that. I want no part of this terrible child. If I could, I would return them to their parents. No, thank you. I’m not interested in any of that.

Max is an enemy. They cannot be trusted.

Dawn of a rivalry

Temtem starts with my character waking up for her very first day as a Temtem tamer. She’s setting off on a grand adventure to learn about Temtem from high-level tamers, and catch her very own army. (The game is not at all shy about being Pokémon with the serial numbers filed off.) But first, I need to catch up with the town’s hot professor and my long-time neighbor, Max.

Max sucks. Right off the bat, they begin to mock me and complain about any advantage they think I may have. After I pick my very first Temtem, I walk out of the professor’s lab and Max challenges me to a battle. This isn’t like Pokémon where I’m up against a sweet, good-natured boy like Hop. Max one-shots me with their newfangled, rare Temtem. There’s literally nothing I can do. And to make matters worse, Max is unbearably smug about it.

Temtem - the player prepares to battle with Max, their rival trainer
C’mon, don’t make a scene.
Image: Crema via Polygon

The professor feels bad for me and gives me a second Temtem he stresses as being incredibly rare. (Five minutes later, I run into a NPC Temtem tamer with the exact same creature, so yeah, horseshit.) Max complains; it’s not fair! They want special Temtems, too!

What are you getting out of this, Max? Is this somehow fulfilling for you? It’s not fun for me, Max. Oh, what, you’re crying now? You’re crying? I should be crying.

Making matters worse

With my two Temtem in tow, I set out north to the next city. I navigate cliffs, high grass, and other tamers out in the wild. The most irritating thing I run into, though, is other NPCs who keep asking me about Max. One lady asks me to watch after this terrible rube.

“You may not believe it, but they look up to you,” she says. When I begrudgingly agree to watch over Max — which is a vague enough promise that I won’t feel guilty smashing their face in later via Temtem battle — she thanks me. “I always knew you were a good apple.”

Every early interaction I have around Max reinforces this dynamic. I’m the good child, the humble Temtem tamer who only wants to do their very best. Meanwhile, Max is obnoxious. They complain. They want to go out into wild territory for no real reason other than someone told them not to. They’re mad at any perceived advantage I have. They’re annoyed when other people don’t recognize any of their perceived advantages. Max sucks, and every NPC who asks me about them seems to ignore this fact.

It takes a village to raise a child, but it seems like any emotional development for Max has been skipped over in favor of foisting them off on me as we go on our Temtem adventure.

This is garbage, and I will not stand for it. The next time I face Max in a Temtem battle, I’m going to win. I’m aware that the Temtem devs have made a series of smart choices and revitalized the rival relationship for me, so I don’t begrudge the game. I’m just going to let that fury drive me forward.

There’s nothing wrong with having your major gaming goal be making a child cry. Because Max is a garbage child.

Update: A previous version of this story referred to Max with he/him pronouns. This is incorrect and Max is canonically non-binary. The story has been updated to reflect this.