Martha Is Dead tells the story of Giulia after finding the lifeless body of her titular twin sister floating in a lake. Through a case of mistaken identity, their parents believe Giulia to be the one who has drowned, and in a state of shock young Giulia does not correct them. Now, assuming the role of her deaf sister, Giulia must solve the mystery surrounding Martha’s death.
The psychological trauma of losing her sister is compounded by the discovery that, to their parents, Martha was the favorite of the twins. This depressing revelation further imposes a sense of alienation, which the game not only embraces, but throws in your face.
The issue of censorship haunts this game. Sony has been criticized for removing player interaction from more troubling story elements. And having played the PS4 release of this game, I don’t feel as if I missed out on anything. The story still played out onscreen as originally desired and was effectively shocking.
Elements of game play can be annoying at times. Most notably quick time events where the player selects a series of words to create a sentence. Thankfully these occurrences are infrequent, but this does not instill hope for a fluent horror experience.
Disappointingly, the game mechanics are a major problem of the release. Following button prompts should not be an issue in any game, but when you find yourself repeatedly tapping away at the correct button waiting for it to eventually work is maddening. This game relies heavily on controller precision, such as mastering elements of photography and photo development, so it’s inexcusable that the player can just get stuck on a mundane task as dismounting a bicycle. Having to reload a previous save becomes a common occurrence and is a powerful detriment to the overall experience.
The visuals are stunning at times and incredibly rough at others. The mist and low light while wandering the forests at night is truly creepy, but traversing the map during the day quickly shows the game’s limitations. Random pop-ins frequently occur, the textures are rough at the best of times, and the draw distance can be laughable. These limitations can be overlooked though, as the immersion into the game’s fantastic mystery is unavoidable.
What the game lacks in visuals it more than makes up for with its music and voice acting. This is where the game truly shines. Within the main house the player is treated to renditions of classic Italian masterpieces, while outside the haunting score drags you deeper into the air of mystery. The unsettling music playing during every cinematic scene is used to perfection and is certain to affect the most hardcore of horror fans.
The voice acting is top-notch. Personal preference was to play with Italian audio and English subtitles. Since the game is set in 1940’s Italy, the audio only helped create a feeling of authenticity. The only drawback, albeit slight, is that there are a slew of text screens with narration and most times the spoken word has finished well before the text crawl. Since there is no option to skip it, the player simply has to wait for the text to catch up before continuing. Martha is Dead should not be viewed as a game, but an experience. Much like a film, you have to be in the proper mood for it. If you’re enticed by a slow, methodical, and terrifying adventure into the depths of psychosis and depression then look no further than Martha Is Dead. The game can be incredibly trying at times, and this title is definitely not for everyone. The overall effort of LKA is undeniable, arguably successful, though with some blatant issues. The replay value is non-existent, but don’t let that deter, because Martha Is Dead is definitely worth a play-through.