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Martha is Dead PlayStation Review

DISCLAIMER: For those interested in playing Martha is Dead, the game has extremely heavy psychological horror themes, including graphic depictions of trauma, corpse mutilation, and other disturbing topics. As such, the game is intended for an adult audience and if you find this sort of content disturbing or upsetting, we advise against playing it.

Martha is Dead is a first person psychological thriller set in Italy in the 1940s and I found the game both stunning and terrifying at the same time. Martha is found dead in a lake at the beginning of the game and, playing as her twin sister Giulia, it is the player’s job to find out who killed Martha. The premise is simple but the plot develops into something very complex, very quickly. Reviewing the PlayStation version of the game, some of the more sensitive elements of the plot are no longer playable, however the PC and Xbox versions were unaffected at the time of this review.

Set in 1940s Italy during World War 2, Martha and Giulia live with their parents and the Tuscan backdrop is gorgeous with the art style really showing the tragedy of war. It doesn’t glorify WWII at all and the forest, lake and farm really are quite beautiful and bring together the horror aspects of the game. I was overcome with emotion while reading the newspapers and the “journalists” tried to say Martha’s murder was political in nature when it clearly wasn’t.

I was also taken aback after hearing Giulia made comment in having an abundance of food and a beautiful house to live, while the newspapers exclaim supplies are in short supply and food must be rationed to starving families. Whilst they are living in Italy, the twins’ father is a General in the German army and receives secret transmissions via radio and telegram which expand on the lore and give a bit of an insight into the war.

The game is played in first person and involves moving Giulia and examining objects throughout the house and surrounding areas. There are some quick time events (QTEs) where you need to input a sequence of button presses within a couple of seconds while being chased. Martha is Dead also gives you choices with your actions which I found cleverly included. The choices aren’t limited to speech choices because of the narrative. In the first act, Giulia has the choice of getting up from kneeling in front of the coffin containing her sister or making the sign of the cross before getting up.

Martha is Dead also contains a few scenes where Giulia is running through the forest and has to choose a path, putting together a sentence of a plot point that has just been completed. If an incorrect word is selected, you’ll have to restart the section. Although not too difficult, these serve as a nice tidy up and refresher to the story up to that point. Giulia also keeps a diary with her that she fills daily. The diary serves as a summary of the plot as it expands day by day, complete with illustrations of the characters and narrated by Giulia.

Martha is Dead has a hint feature that I used often. Activating this highlights all the objects Giulia can examine and interact with in the current area. I found a few of the items needed to progress the narrative a little difficult to find but upon using hint feature as well as your journal, finding them was easier as the game progressed. If you do get stuck though, the journal will provide a hint, for example telling you that the tripod required is downstairs in the cellar.

Other critical gameplay features and elements include photography with Giulia’s camera, and developing the photos in the dark room are utilised to progress the main story so don’t rush through the game. I found the explanation of using the camera and its features as well as the dark room quite long winded. I can also see the controls of the camera putting people off as they aren’t straight forward either. During some missions, Giulia will need to search the house for attachments to the camera, like infrared film. This layer of complexity really adds to the depth of the narrative. Although the camera use is needed to progress in the game, you can also use it for fun and you might even find some lore hidden in photos.

The horror in Martha is Dead is definitely present and does not shy away from blood and gore. While gruesome at times, it’s not done distastefully at all. One particular scene has you cutting off the face of a corpse and wearing it. As someone who’s grown up watching horror movies, there are quite a number of scenes which even I found hard to watch. It is apparent the developers and director weren’t afraid to take a risk with them and I felt the horror is meant to convey what it’s like going through a terrible experience.

The game is very linear being organised in days and the side missions are very engaging. Be careful when completing parts of the main story as some major plot events progress and end the day, missing out on giving the player a chance to complete any side quests. One of the side quests has you talking to the resistance, which was very interesting hearing their insights as well as the choices Giulia has to make considering her father is a General. During that mission however, I kept having to reload a previous save as once I got to a particular spot on the map I fell through the map endlessly. There were also a couple of instances where the dialogue would repeat or the subtitles would stay on screen.

Overall, Martha is Dead is a very well thought out and insightful game albeit with a couple of hiccups in gameplay during this review period. Fans of the horror genre will definitely need to keep this on their radar.

This review utilised a PlayStation key provided by Renaissance PR. Martha is Dead is out now on PC, Xbox and PlayStation.

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