Home Game Reviews Martha is Dead: A Haunting Tale of Loss and Mystery Amid War

Martha is Dead: A Haunting Tale of Loss and Mystery Amid War

Martha is Dead Survival Horror Game Review

Martha Is Dead - Front Picture
Martha Is Dead - Front Picture

Title: Martha Is Dead
Developer: LKA
Publisher: Wired Productions
Released: February 24, 2022
Platforms Available: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, Nintendo Switch
Platform Reviewed: PlayStation 5
Article Reading Time: 9 minutes

Fog Over Tuscany: A Quiet Life Amid War and Tragic Discovery at Dawn

The year is 1944. In addition to the threats of the Second World War, a thick morning fog falls on an otherwise sunny fictional Tuscan town. Apart from the occasional shell explosions heard from afar, the family of army general Erich lives a relatively quiet life in this locality. His wife Irene is a local seamstress, and his daughters – identical twins Giulia and Martha – have everything they can think of. The first mentioned (Giulia, whom you play as) is a keen photographer. So early in the morning, she rounds the photo traps at the nearby pond, hoping to take pictures of the animals that come to the pond to drink overnight. But what she discovers changes everything. The body of her sister Martha floats on the surface, which means only one thing. Martha is dead. Or is she?

A Different Breed of Horror

Although the game belongs to the genre of first-person survival horror, don’t expect bloody carnage like in Resident Evil or the kind of scares of which Outlast is the imaginary king of recent years. Italian studio LKA tries to go about it a little differently. This is seen in their first game 2016, The Town Of Light. In Martha, most of the story is presented as text. Your approximately six-hour gameplay experience will thus be mostly about constantly going somewhere and explaining specific events. Sometimes, you will have to call a funeral home, sometimes, you will have to bring flowers to your mother, and sometimes, you will have to find the grave of an unknown man in a rather large plot of land.

None of this is difficult. The task’s location on the map is always shown with a red cross. What is worse, however, is the path to the task. I want to keep the story private because that’s what I enjoyed most about the game. As an example, though, I cite the path to the lake, which you go to several times during the game. In daylight, the journey is incredibly tedious; mostly, nothing happens, so you just keep going and going as the birds sing. However, it gets pretty intense if you have to visit the lake at night. Of course, the journey is no shorter, and I have already mentioned that nothing scares you in the game. However, the atmosphere was really dark, and I felt like I was constantly being watched. There were several paths to choose from, and even though your direction doesn’t change the plot, you suddenly start wondering whether it would be better to take the shorter path to the left, past the strange cabin, or the longer but illuminated path to the right. So, the author’s efforts to make us feel really uncomfortable in the game were excellent, and I empathized with Giulia’s feelings. Or was it Martha?

The Lens of the Past: Photography as Storytelling

But it’s more than a tiresome journey from point A to point B. The main element of the whole game here is the period camera. Taking pictures of objects moves the story along, and the authors have done quite well with this mechanic. Accessories such as a tripod, flash, and notable films for taking pictures in the rain and dark are available.

And, of course, since there were no digital cameras during World War II like there are today, you have to develop your images in a dark room. The name “dark” doesn’t just mean it’s dark. In fact, you won’t feel very comfortable in the basement of the house where it’s located. But back to developing the photos themselves. It works here on the principle of a mini-game. You need to set everything up correctly and wait a certain amount of time for the process to be completed. However, the whole thing only takes a few seconds, so don’t worry about being stuck in the basement for tens of minutes. You can also liven up your passage through the game by wandering around and taking pictures of anything that comes to mind. Like a dead Martha. But is it Martha?

Aside from the shooting above and developing, the game offers plenty of little mechanics to liven it up. You’ll be divining from tarot cards, which, while an essential part of the story, don’t change the order in which you draw them. And in one of the side quests, for example, you help the guerrillas. You communicate with them via telegram using Morse code, and for someone who didn’t go to the camps, like me, that was the scariest thing about the whole game. The more remote locations of the plot can then be visited by bike. I strongly advise against this, though. I never thought I’d review a riding model in a horror game, but I just can’t do it here. I could get going, but the problem came with the first turn. Every attempt to turn was accompanied by camera jerks, and the driving itself was reminiscent of going downstairs. Moreover, the bike can only be used around the house and to visit the cemetery, about a minute’s walk away. However, remember me during your first tantrum if you decide to use the bike.

There are several side quests in Martha is Dead (such as the communication above with the partisans). Their fulfillment or non-fulfillment, however, does not change the plot. You’ll lose a few dozen minutes of gameplay and get different answers in conversations.

Technical Difficulties and Triumphs

Although I enjoyed the story, the technical state brings the whole game to its knees. Because this is an indie game that ten people worked on, the occasional sound dropping out or getting stuck on an obstacle could be forgiven. However, the developers have promised to make the game for the new generation of consoles, compared to the PC version, which some players needed more time to finish due to poor technical conditions, except not at all. Several times, I got stuck in a location where I had completed all the required tasks and couldn’t get any further. Sometimes, I got stuck in a texture that I fell through. Sometimes, the game froze, and only restarting from the last saved position helped. The crown of it all was the beginning of the game, which I had to repeat four times. After a few minutes, an error popped up, and I couldn’t continue. At first, I blamed it on my PlayStation, but nowadays, you can find hundreds of comments on the internet from players with similar problems. That applies to both new and old-generation consoles.

DualSense Delight and Visual Finesse

But not to just blame the developers. They’ve done an excellent job of using the DualSense controller. Adaptive triggers are now commonplace for most PS5 games. They add a great vibe to the gloomy atmosphere and gaming experience. The controller constantly alternates the vibration of its left and right sides, which is meant to simulate footsteps. It’s a little thing, but a nice touch. The graphics of the game, however, are good. Unreal Engine 4 adds to the so-called realism of the game. The shadows, the sunlight shining through the treetops, and the animation are all perfect for an indie game. The period music playing from the radio and the effects will sometimes give you goosebumps. Plus, if you choose the dubbing in the original Italian, you’ll immediately want to go to an Italian vineyard.

The Ethical Dilemma of Censorship

Although there were rumors the day before release that Martha would be censored for PlayStation consoles, there is an option to set up an uncensored version at the start of the game. If that doesn’t make you sick at the sight of skinning, flesh-eating worms, or partial nudity, I recommend turning this mode on.

Final word on Dead Martha

I’ll admit that Martha is Dead is pretty hard for me to rate. On the one hand, we have a roughly six-hour story full of madness, fear, and uncertainty. It’s a story that will leave you reeling from start to finish. On the other hand, we have a game that – while not explicitly broken – is riddled with technical issues that ultimately sink the overall experience. So, for us at Weplaygames, the dark atmosphere of an Italian village during the Second World War, backed by great audio, will not let you tear yourself away from the screen. But the great story is literally killed by the technical state of the game. Freezing, crashing, and many other problems will frustrate your gaming experience. That’s why the final verdict of this minor game is rather average.

Where to Buy Martha Is Dead

  1. Steam (PC): Available for $29.99. You can purchase the game directly from Martha Is Dead on Steam.
  2. GOG (PC): The game is also available for $29.99 and is DRM-free. Purchase it from Martha Is Dead on GOG.com .
  3. Epic Games Store (PC): Priced at $29.99. Find more details and purchase the game here on Epic Games Store.
  4. PlayStation Store (PS4/PS5): The game is available for $29.99, with discounts often available. You can buy it from the PlayStation Store , Martha Is Dead PS4™ & PS5™.
  5. Xbox Store: Martha Is Dead is available for $29.99 on the Xbox platform. Check it out on the Buy Martha Is Dead | Xbox.


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