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As a huge fan of horror games, I was excited by the prospect of what looked to be a dark and mature psychological horror story with a tinge of the supernatural. Whilst that is ultimately what I got from Martha is Dead, I can say I put down the game both disappointed but strangely eager to return.

A Haunting And Dark Narrative

One thing where Martha is Dead fully delivered on its promises for me was in presenting a dark and realistic narrative, one that is not going to be accessible for everyone as the game deals with uncomfortable subject matter and depicts some truly horrific imagery. The content warnings around this game should not be ignored and I advise caution to those upset by its depictions of mature scenes containing blood, dismemberment, disfigurement of human bodies, miscarriage and self-harm.

Martha is Dead is a story about Giulia, a young woman who after witnessing the death of her twin sister desperately seeks answers, believing it to be in some way connected to an old Italian folktale. Shortly after her sister’s passing Giulia begins having odd visions and dreams suggesting there is more to this than meets the eye. What follows is an exploration into topics of grief, mental illness and more which in my eyes the game handles fairly respectfully. However, despite this initially engaging set up the narrative for me ultimately fell flat at least until the last 30 minutes and for me, it was a result of the pacing. Whilst not a long game, in the roughly 6-7 hours I played of Martha is Dead a good portion of it just felt a little dragged out.


Source: Martha Is Dead – Press Kit


My main qualms with the story come from its at times confusing and jumbled narrative, however, this is a problem that becomes far less egregious when you finish the story as the purpose of this becomes all the more clear and in a real stroke of genius that genuinely surprised me. You’ll genuinely question the reality of the events that have played out throughout the story, something which is certainly worthy of praise whether you take to it or not. That is to say, I don’t think the narrative of Martha is Dead is a bad one. It’s just one that only really came together for me in the final moments.

After finishing the story despite several moments of frustration I felt it overstayed its welcome. I ultimately have a tremendous amount of respect for the developers at LKA for the intimate and unflinching narrative they have chosen to tell, and it’s a game that I feel warrants a second playthrough.

Not Your Average Horror Game

Despite the very dark and disturbing subject matter of this game it’s not particularly frightening and it seems to be with design and overuse of genre tropes that this may well have harmed the game’s serious tone and subject matter, and whilst for me, this is disappointing if players go in expecting a psychological mystery, I think they’ll enjoy themselves. One aspect of the game that I feel may have been more fun to explore with this narrative is the urban legend opening that we get of this ‘White Lady’, a ghostly figure who supposedly resides in the lake. This could and almost did, make for some chilling sequences within the first hour or two but I feel this approach is ultimately setting up players for more of a horror experience than they will ultimately get.

A Visual And Audio Treat

One aspect of Martha is Dead that I will praise endlessly is the visuals and atmosphere. This is at times a gorgeous looking game, that gives players a small section of the Italian countryside to explore and uncover the game’s narrative within. One especially striking element of the game’s visuals is the sunshine and the shadows its casts as it does an excellent job of contrasting the game’s bleak tone with incredibly warm visuals, which the game’s night sections and dreams sequences nicely contrast with.


Source: Martha Is Dead – Press Kit


In terms of audio, the game is a bit more of a mixed bag. The atmospheric sound design is great and helps you feel the initially peaceful atmosphere of the Italian countryside, you’ll hear birds tweeting, farm animals or the radio updating you on Italy’s role in the war. Another area of the audio I found particularly enjoyable is the game’s score which felt to be a little too sparingly used. One piece in particular that plays during your time spent in the darkroom where you’ll develop many photos is both haunting and engaging, helping build upon the game’s central mystery.

Voice acting wise the game sounded fine to me. I played it as intended in Italian so I don’t feel I can properly judge the performances; I certainly didn’t hear anything that sounded poor and playing in its native tongue goes a long way to help immerse you in the setting of the game.

Backtracking And Busywork

This is probably the part of the game that will divide players the most and that’s the gameplay. Like many games similar to Martha is Dead, the game is best described as being a ‘walking simulator’. The game gives you various tasks to accomplish to unravel the mystery of your sister’s death, with the central mechanic to these tasks being photography which asks you to take photos of vital clues and locations on your journey around the farm. The game wisely creates a blend of realistic use of a camera and photo development without forcing you to go through the full process of developing photos though it does make the player aware of what the full process would be.

The photography in the game is incredibly fleshed out with the camera needing a range of attachments depending on the type of photo being taken and the subject of the photo. Additionally, the game offers up multiple options for creating your ideal photographs of the many gorgeous vistas the game has to offer. For me, this mechanic was enjoyable for discovering the intricate narrative being told but did not appeal to me too much outside of this. There is a great feeling of discovery as you take a photo and develop it only to reveal a new clue in your investigation.


Source: Martha Is Dead – Press Kit


However, the other tasks you’ll be doing in the game like the multiple frivolous quick time events or the constant walking back and forth across the same locations can become very tedious with one side quest in particular feeling incredibly frustrating. Additionally, the game introduces a puppet show mechanic which whilst visually appealing felt a little unnecessary and is used to convey some of the game’s more disturbing moments. It did however fit well within the game’s world.


Source: Martha Is Dead – Press Kit


Finally, the game has several side quests as well as the occasional dialogue option though it’s not clear if this affects the ending, even so, I was satisfied with how the story ended and finished with an 86% completion rating.

Technical Issues

I experienced numerous technical issues throughout my time with the game with two bugs requiring me to reload my save. The technical issue I faced the most was serious frame rate dips during points where text was on screen or a chapter was beginning which was odd as the game mostly felt smooth. It is important to note however that LKA has promised a day one patch for the title which may have corrected these issues.


Overall, I think Martha is Dead is a game that many will love, for those who like a slow-paced narrative with a poignant message at the centre, which admittedly may have been lost on me, then it’s the game for you. My personal experience aside, I think it’s undeniable that LKA has crafted a fascinating title that I believe will be even more enjoyable on repeat playthroughs.

You can purchase Martha is Dead on Xbox Marketplace, PlayStation Store, or Steam for €29.99. It will also be receiving physical copies on PlayStation later on. If you’d like to keep up to date with all of our upcoming reviews, news, and features here at Gaming Sandbox, feel free to follow us on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and LinkedIn. If you’d like to support us financially you can do so by following the link to our Patreon!

Reviewed on: Xbox Series S
Developer: LKA
Publisher: Wired Productions

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