Editor’s Note: This article contains descriptions of graphic fictional violence, blood, heavy topics and discussions of familial death. Reader discretion is highly advised.
‘Martha is Dead’ was released by LKA and Wired Productions on March 1, and is a story-rich, psychological horror game featuring a female protagonist. The game is available for purchase on PC through Windows or Steam, PS4, PS5, and Xbox , for $30 USD.
LKA is a developer still new to the gaming world, with this being their second release. Their previous title game was ‘The Town of Light.’
Wired Productions has produced a multitude of other games, featuring similar horror genres such as ‘Those Who Remain,’ ‘Fractured Minds,’ and ‘Close to the Sun.’
‘Martha is Dead’ immediately opens with cautions and trigger warnings. The game claims it is intended for mature, adult audiences only and that it uses visually unsettling and discomforting imagery that explores the complexities of the human mind, psychological trauma, and bodily harm. Following these warnings, a crisis hotline link and phone number are displayed.
With a run-time of four and a half hours to complete entirely, ‘Martha is Dead’ is not a long game, which makes its opening sequence so jarring and horrific.
Despite the game’s lack of strong writing and physical gameplay, its graphics are vibrant and smooth.
The game takes place in rural Italy, towards the end of World War II. The player takes on the role of Giulia – the daughter of a fascist, German general – and her mother, who loves Giulia’s deaf sister, Martha, more than her.
After waking from a dream about her nanny reading a disturbing story that she loved, Giulia leaves her home and heads to the lake behind her house.
There, she sees a body in the water. When going to help, she realizes it’s her sister, now dead and wearing one of her dresses. Giulia takes a necklace off Martha, engraved with the letter ‘M’, and wears it.
Hearing the commotion, their parents rush to the shore and find Giulia clutching Martha. However, due to the sisters’ similar appearances, their parents believe it is Martha that is holding Giulia’s body.
Immediately following this event, a dream sequence plays, showing an extremely gruesome and horrific scene of the player, as Giulia, cutting off and putting on the face of her dead sister: symbolically becoming her.
From here, the game throws one traumatic fever-dream of a nightmare after another at the player, such as a baby ripping itself from Martha’s womb.
In another instance, the player gets shot and blacks out beside Giulia’s dead and dismembered boyfriend (who had been killed by fascist soldiers).
There is also a complete side-plot where the player, as Giulia, can sabotage and expose her entire family and work alongside the anti-fascists.
Mixing such events back-to-back with the game’s stale and clunky writing style, the game loses any sort of drama and emotion.
There seemed to be many potential story themes – like the struggles of impostor syndrome, miscarriage and trauma from a war that could have been explored – but ‘Martha is Dead’ does not. Instead, it rapidly desensitizes the player with repetitive flashes of grotesque horror and lingering shots of corpses.
‘Martha is Dead’ is a game that is trying to do too much. While handling such extreme themes of supernatural, psychological, and gore horrors, the messages of the game get muddled down and lost through confusing plotlines and erratic dream sequences.
It focuses on the trauma of war, impostor syndrome, family abuse, and psychological trauma. It tries to immerse and root itself through a photography system that is repetitive and dry.
The game took me longer than anticipated to complete because I found it such a drudge to play through. Nothing about the story, writing or acting stood out to me.
The game’s great graphics are ultimately ruined by clipping textures, broken models, missing quest and story markers, and frequent frame stuttering.
The only thing I will remember from ‘Martha is Dead’ is that it was the game that was censored for peeling the player’s dead sister’s face off and wearing it.