Martha Is Dead is Tragic, Beautiful and Gruesome

Martha Is Dead Preview

Martha Is Dead, a psychological thriller from developer LKA, is set to release next month, and not only did the spooky aesthetic of the trailer intrigue me, but so did the potential of the story – set in Italy during WWII. I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d find hidden in its depths but after playing through the first half of the game I can safely say this is one to keep an eye out for.

It’s Tuscany, the year is 1944. It’s a time of war, a time of hardship, a time of sorrow. And up until Giulia, the daughter of a German soldier, finds her sister Martha floating dead in a lake, none of those three descriptors were her reality. Now she must make sense of her gruesome discovery all on her own. There’s a dichotomy to how the story plays out – one part reality and one part in a dream-like state. There are no big jump scares and no big bads to rid the world of so the horror comes in the way of twists and turns along the way. Don’t worry though, it’s still plenty frightful. Without getting further into the story, there will be a lot to uncover during your playthrough. Some of which are truly going to make you a little uncomfortable.

A Photo Finish

Martha Is Dead plays a lot like a horror walking simulator with some bits of interaction thrown in here and there. I wish there was a bit more freedom to walk around and explore, especially given the beauty of the Tuscany countryside, but I can understand why LKA designed the game this way. The focus and immersion comes from Giulia’s perspective and her love of photography. And in fact, the camera is very important to moving the narrative forward.

There are no puzzles in the traditional sense, instead, you’ll find yourself thrown into interactive mazes of a sort. There are two ‘puzzles’ within Martha Is Dead. You’ll have to focus on objects through the lens of your camera in order to take the snapshot, or you’ll be in the middle of the forest, having to correctly piece together a sequence of words and phrases to advance. While the photo puzzles are fairly easy, the word one is a bit more complicated. Guess the wrong word or phrase and you’ll have to start from square one. It can be a bit frustrating at times as these words and phrases come up very quickly, however, they do become easier the more you’ve completed.

That said, part of what makes these sequences frustrating is the awkward camera movement. This is an issue throughout, but it’s more of a minor nuisance until these sequences. The controls aren’t super smooth so I found quite often that moving around can be a bit of a pain. Which of course, isn’t exactly what you hope for when playing a game that really focuses on walking and looking around.

Additionally, the load times between chapters and even between cutscenes aren’t as quick as they should be. There was one time when I left my computer, made myself a cup of tea, came back, and the next scene was just coming into focus. So between the two chapters, it took almost 3 full minutes to load! This doesn’t exactly lend to the immersive experience the rest of the game tries so hard for. But, as there is still a month before the full release of Martha Is Dead I’m hopeful these mechanics are ironed out for a more seamless feel.

Authentic Italy From the Start

Though Martha Is Dead isn’t exactly on par with AAA game graphics, every little detail about the game lends itself to not only the overall narrative of the game, but to the player’s experience as well. From the authentic Italian dialogue to its eerie atmosphere and lighting, Martha Is Dead will pull you in. The art direction is dark, yet beautiful. No doubt, you’ll be on the edge of your seat, waiting for that jump scare that never arrives.

Martha is dead

And you certainly won’t forget about the music within Martha Is Dead. It sets the tone perfectly. It’s expressive, captivating, and powerful. If you’ve ever listened to Between Music: Aquasonic, you’ll know exactly what to expect. It’s suspenseful, yet exquisite. There aren’t many games I would replay for the sake of the music, but this is definitely an exception to the rule.

Martha Is Dead is thoughtful, yet immersive and even a bit gruesome at times. Its atmosphere, game design, and soundtrack are all more than worth the price of admission. After playing through just over half of the game it seems like there are still plenty of questions I would like answered and I’m invested to find out what happens. Regardless of whether you’re someone who frequents the horror genre, Martha Is Dead should be on your radar. And you won’t have to wait long because it’s out at the end of next month!

*** PC game code provided by the publisher ***