Our Score: 8/10
Martha Is Dead is a dark first-person psychological thriller, set in 1944 Italy, that blurs the lines between reality, superstition and the tragedy of war.
Martha is dead, and her twin sister Giulia, the young daughter of a German soldier, is left to deal with the grief and aftermath of her sister’s murder on her own. The search for the truth is hampered by enigmatic mythology and the looming terror of war.
Martha Are You OK
With Martha is Dead, LKA Games has produced a first-person psychological thriller. Set in the idyllic Italian countryside of Tuscany during the final days of World War 2. Giulia, the daughter of a German general, discovers her twin sister Martha drowned in a lake. Just shortly before the German occupation ends. Her mind, burdened with past traumas, the toll of war, and now the death of her sister, drives her into a deep spiral. A spiral that examines the human psyche and dark topics. Some that undoubtedly warrant the game’s trigger warnings as she sets out to learn the truth of the tragic occurrence.
Without going into too much detail about the plot, Martha is Dead delves into the mind of a young girl on the verge of a mental breakdown who uses children’s folklore as an escape technique. This is depicted on television as hallucinatory scenes with ghosts, self-harm. And mutilation that later spilled into the actual world. There is some debate regarding the need for such precise plot elements. Particularly in the case of a scene set in the family crypt. There is a clear link between what the characters are going through and the acts they take as a result. LKA did a fantastic job of not glorifying the subject matter. And by portraying it in such a straightforward manner, Martha is Dead became even more compelling.
Looking for Trouble
Giulia finds herself in a world where she can’t distinguish what’s real and what’s in her head; she takes images to prove she isn’t insane. And a significant chunk of the game found me wandering across various landscapes looking for clues and shooting photos. And Martha is Dead succeeds in this area. The images are stunning, wonderfully capturing the beauty of the Italian countryside. The vineyards and woodlands that are exhibited on rolling hills are a sight to behold. And I was astounded by how much detail was crammed into each room when exploring the villa Giulia and her family are living in.
The sound design is another area where LKA appears to have nailed it. It’s common to hear “English with an accent” in games set in foreign locations. But hearing all of the characters talk in their original Italian was refreshing to say the least. There are choices to adjust this, but the voice acting is excellent, and I never felt the need to do so. The voices were accompanied by actual 1940s music played on radios by Italian and German bands. These cultural elements only serve to emphasise LKA’s attention to detail in presenting a realistic period.
Everything seemed as if it could be torn from the screen, from the original pictures of fairy tales to the furniture that filled the rooms, and even zooming into the brickwork, I could see the mottling. The only tiny, and I mean slight, criticism I could make of the visuals was that the farm animals didn’t appear to have the same level of refinement as the rest of the scenery and stood out. Again, this is only a minor issue that has little bearing on the game’s overall beauty.
A Feel for Danger
With Martha is Dead, LKA has excelled at implementing DualSense features. Everything was more immersive through the controller, from the left and right motors matching Giulia’s footfall to phone calls coming over the speaker to the resistance of the camera shutter while snapping an image. When Giulia first discovers Martha, the controller transmits the distressed twin’s heartbeat, which gradually becomes quicker and faster and is a level of detail I would never have expected to be considered.
Martha is Dead is an incredibly dark and twisted horror game that doesn’t rely on jumpscares to scare you. It excels at filling you with a sense of dread along with gruesome depictions of various atrocities to hammer home the brutality of war. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but there’s a lot here for horror fans.