We all love a good scare from time to times let’s be honest, and few forms of media get in your head quite like how games do, especially when it comes to the scare factor. So when a new thriller hits the market we couldn’t help but be interested in checking it out. Enter LKA’s (the team behind The Town of Light) latest game Martha Is Dead – a dark first-person psychological thriller, set in 1944 Italy during the Second World War. This tells a tale which quickly kicks off, but soon loses momentum as it blurs the lines between reality and superstition in interesting ways.
You play as Giulia, the young daughter of a German general, and quickly things take a turn as you find your twin sister Martha is dead – having drowned in a nearby lake which is said to be hunted by a ghost called the White Lady. Things quickly move up the gears as you are mistaken for Martha with everyone believing you actually found Giulia. And as you have also played second fiddle to Martha, you oddly play along with this case of mistaken identity. From there you must deal with the trauma of loss and the fallout from Martha’s murder, all the time pushing to getting to the bottom of what really happened and the ultimately… the truth. It’s an engaging tale, but there are real issues with its pacing. More often than not it’s a slow burner that brings in elements of the supernatural, horror, and the Second World War itself. A really interesting feature is that as you push through the game you start to question if Giulia is actually a trustworthy narrator, as things don’t quite add up as her psyche starts to truly unravel.
Gameplay is best summed up as a walking sim with a bit more than normal interactivity. In Martha Is Dead you move from location to location interacting with objects, as well as taking pictures. Martha Is Dead has a really surprisingly deep camera system, which sees you being able to swap lenses and tweak a number of settings on the camera, all before having to develop the photos. Things start to hit the bumps as between the enjoyable stuff there are real stretches of, well… nothing. This is also not helped by the default walking speed being so slow and then the “sprinting” speed being a tiny bit faster. It’s an issue I have run into in walking sims in the past, where your movement speed feels like an artificial gameplay lengthening tool, as why run when you can crawl? Though you can unlock a bike later in the game for longer journeys, but it’s far from fast as well and controls like a brick.
Other issues can be found in actually trying to interact with an object, which isn’t a huge problem in Martha Is Dead until you’re faced with a table of things and each tiny movement bounces you between them. There are also sections that see you running through a forest at times trying to build a sentence, by picking the right path with the word, but these are so hit and miss it’s unreal. More frustrating is if you get it wrong, you go back to the beginning of the run, and that isn’t fun no matter how you cut it.
Martha Is Dead is an odd title that at its core has something that’s worth playing and seeing, but getting there is a real issue. Bear in mind that it might only be worthwhile it you have bags of time to dance to its steady yet extremely slow beat.
An Xbox review copy of Martha Is Dead was provided by Wired Productions PR team and the game is available now on PC, Xbox and PlayStation for around £25 depending on platform. Be aware that the PS version is different from the other platforms due to restrictions on gameplay segments requested by Sony (though the same story content is fully available).
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