Martha is Dead review: The most disturbing game ever?!
Title: Martha is dead
Editor: Wired Productions
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X(S)
Release date: February 24, 2022
For the past few weeks, I’ve been hearing a name on repeat: Martha, Martha, Martha! Apparently she died and they made a game out of her. Seriously, I kept seeing content creators saying that the new indie release, Martha is dead, is the most disturbing game they have ever played. Since the state of the world right now is at a “burning garbage fire” level, I figured nothing could shock me and wanted to get my hands on it. I walked in completely blind, not watching any gameplay or reading any reviews except to see the “OMG IT’S SO DISTURBING” title cards that flooded my Youtube feed. Is it as disturbing as they say?
Right off the bat, I discovered that I was playing a different version than the videos shown. Martha is dead was released on consoles and PC. Two weeks before release, Sony deemed some of the content too disturbing for gamers and cut the interactive aspect of these scenes, making them cutscenes, which can be skipped completely for particularly sensitive people. While I appreciate the option to cut those moments, I resent Sony censoring a game that was released in its entirety by PC and Xbox. We must be able to decide for ourselves what is disturbing.
THERE ARE SWEET SPOILERS AHEAD
Martha is dead follows the character of Giulia. Giulia and Martha (identical twins) live in the Tuscany region in 1944 during World War II. Their father is a German soldier and sympathizer and their mother is a nasty drug addict. While Irene, their mother, is sympathetic and kind to Martha due to her deafness, Irene is cruel to Giulia, blaming her for Martha’s disability. Her father is nice to her but is rarely home. One day, while retrieving her cameras from the lake, Giulia sees something in the water. Zooming in with her camera, she sees Martha dead in the water wearing her dress. Giulia runs into the water to get her sister out but it’s too late. Mourning over her sister’s body, she puts on Martha’s necklace. Immediately afterwards, her mother runs to her side and mistakes Giulia for Martha. In shock, Giulia doesn’t speak and has to live with the fact that she has taken on her sister’s identity. Living like her sister, she tries to figure out who killed Martha and why.
One of the “disturbing” moments Sony messed with occurs early in the game. In a dream sequence, Giulia uses Martha’s necklace charm to cut off her sister’s face and put it on. Sony got rid of the QTE that turns something that’s supposed to be intense and emotional and turns it into a cinematic. The dream is symbolic of taking back his sister’s identity and the player’s hand. Sony removes this interaction, disconnecting the reader from what’s going on. There is another similar sequence later in the game that Sony removed the QTE but they are still available on PC. You have the option to completely skip the stage, which is nice, but I wish they had made interaction optional as well.
Ok, aside from unnecessary censorship, is it Martha is dead all good? Yes, this game is very good but only for a certain audience. Let me explain. Personally, I don’t find the game disturbing…at all. I find it engaging and very, VERY sad. The most disturbing thing I saw in the game was a room full of Nazi flags. Now THAT made me go WTF?!? Fascist memorabilia aside, this game is beautiful to watch. The graphics are beautiful, especially the environments. There’s this moment when Giulia comes out at dawn and the sun has just risen, so the light is low and it’s foggy. You hear the morning birds chirping and it’s so peaceful even though the subject is so dark.
There will be many people who find this game very slow. Martha is dead feels like an old PC game in controls and pacing. Older PC games were very narrative with a lot of walking. If more walking was involved in this game, Giulia would be traveling with some hobbits to a volcano. And she walks veeeeeeeerrrrrrryyyyy sssssllllloooooowwwwwwwww. Even when she’s running, I can feel my eyes glaze over from the speed, or lack thereof. There is a bicycle available to get from place to place faster, but most places you walk don’t allow bicycles, so I found myself going through the forest like I had shoes on. cement, begging her to walk faster.
Speaking of running, every time I hit a checkpoint and Giulia ran, the whole game would freeze and I had to close the game and restart it. It happened so many times that I almost quit playing because I never knew when the game would hit the checkpoint. After I calmed down, I started to recognize when the checkpoints might be and started running in shorter bursts, which seemed to solve the problem enough for me to progress. While the process worked, it shouldn’t crash like this from just running it on a PS5. All that said, the story was so engaging that despite the issues, I kept coming back. I kept thinking about the game during the day, wanting to play it to learn more about the story. It’s not a long game (though the walk makes it feel like it is), but it’s just long enough that the story hits hard and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
One of the most important game mechanics is that of Giulia’s camera. There will be times when a photo needs to be taken for a quest, other times it’s just for exposure, but anytime the camera is used it’s nice. As the game progresses, you choose new film types and filters to shoot in different environments. It’s so much fun tinkering with the different attachments that sometimes I forgot it was part of a quest. Once you’ve taken the picture, you take the film to the darkroom for development. Even though the process is simplified, you can burn the image onto paper and then develop the image. For those of you who have only lived in the digital age, there is something satisfying about film development.
For some, there will be troubling elements in Martha is dead. There is war, suicide, miscarriages and abuse. Keep that in mind if you decide to play this game. Overall I think it’s an amazing experience. The audio mix is lovely, the graphics are eye-catching, and the story is sad and so engaging. The controls are nostalgic for PC gamers, despite being so sluggish. Martha is dead it may not be true horror in my opinion, but it is full of suspense and emotion. This is definitely a thumbs up from me.
Martha is Dead (PS5) Rating: 8/10
Even though the game itself looks and sounds great, the movement mechanics are extremely slow and there’s a checkpoint bug that crashes the game. Although it’s not as annoying as people claim, the story of Martha is Dead is certainly a gut-punch.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purposes of this review. All ratings are ranked out of 10, with increments of 0.5. Click here to learn more about our review policy.