Developed by LKA (The Town of Light), Martha Is Dead is a first person Psychological Thriller, set in Italy in 1944, among the backdrop of the second world war. Already soaked in controversy due to an early scene featuring a facial skin removal, where Playstation owners have been handed an edited version, we pick up with the Xbox version where we’ve been left with an uncut version of the game.
Martha Is Dead is a slow paced first person thriller, similar paced to titles like Soma and Visage. We’re sent to the scenic Italian countryside in 1944, where we learn that Martha is indeed, dead. We pick up as her twin sister Giulia, who’s trying to come to terms with her sisters death, and the mystery surrounding it.
The first person standpoint lends itself perfectly to this genre and Martha is Dead follows suit, controlling is simple enough, with some extra controls helping you grab and manipulate items and collectables in the game, these controls will also help you use the camera in the game which is paramount to your adventure.
The camera however however is unlike Fatal Frame/Project Zero where you’re using a camera to defeat enemies, the camera here works very similar to an analogue camera, you are able to adjust focus, exposure and aperture. You can also obtain different filters, skins and film for the camera, as well as a flash to obviously take them pictures in the dark. The story feels very methodical, we have lots of dialogue which is natively in Italian (in a first for a game from what I can gather), this can be changed to something you’re more familiar with (English, Spanish, German, Chinese) but for that authentic feeling I suggest playing in native Italian.
We go through the narrative obviously trying to work out what happened to Martha, how Giulia is coping with her feelings, and how her family is dealing with the loss of her twin sister. There’s also a political undercurrent to the story too, but without any spoilers I’ll leave you to work that out.
The story is very heavy and we go back and forth exploring the small region we have to work with. There’s some dream sections too where things will be quite unnerving, but those who are fond of these darker stories won’t have anything to worry about. The game isn’t hugely gory however there are some scenes that can be seen as distressing, obviously dealing with a dead relative and themes surrounding this.
As I mentioned the slower pace of the story, if you’re wanting to run through this and find jump scares this might not be for you. Within this heavy burner there’s some chilling scenes in there with some very good writing, though the few jump scares in there didn’t make me jump any, being a seasoned horror vet. Do expect if you’re wanting to find out the full story, the game is full of collectables, things to read, audio logs as well as things you can take pictures of. There’s a lot of content there for a completionist, however I don’t feel there was enough for me for a second playthrough.
Visually I didn’t see anything wrong with Martha is Dead, character models look pretty good, the ghostly images were decent enough, and some squirm inducing moments were definitely that. The lighting from the torch/lamp/lighter was nice, and the flash from the camera was decent too. The camera was especially good to use, the visual effects whilst trying to focus and zoom felt very real.
Martha is Dead is a decent enough thriller to keep you going for a good amount of hours, as mentioned don’t expect much replayability from it. Personal highlight was the camera usage, felt a million miles better than what’s given in PZ/FF, where again a camera is a main focus of gameplay.
One and done thriller, story can be quite heavy, but worth a playthrough with some fun and unique camera play.