Whether movies, series or video games (and even real-life experiences such as attractions or horror train-style tunnels) become addictive. The adrenaline released when being in a dangerous situation, for fear of the unknown or because we are exposed, and anything can happen to us, makes our body take out its most primitive instincts, and we begin to perform meaningless actions. We stop thinking; we no longer reason calmly and without pressure. It will not be a few times that, watching the classic horror movie of the day, you will have pointed out that what the characters do is absurd (yes, sometimes it is, but not always). “Don’t go over there!” “Don’t open that door.” “But don’t you see they’re going to kill him?” From the peaceful cinema seat or sofa, it is very comfortable to indicate what one should do with perspective and the possibility of analyzing what is around us because our mind is not dripping with adrenaline and our survival instinct is more asleep.
Martha is Dead is one of the few recent horror games (not classics) that has managed to convey that constant feeling of overwhelm and adrenaline that culminates in chest pressure for not knowing what the hell is going to happen when we cross a door, a corner or when we enter the forest in the middle of the night because, of course, most works of the genre demand it to justify the appearance of ghosts, spectres or entities (do not take this as a spoiler because this happens from the very construction of terror audiovisual). YES, the LKA and Wired Productions video game is not one of the most terrifying that we have played in our lives; we already anticipate it. It has some characteristics, which we will comment on below, making us face a sick story that must be treated with care. Still, of course, it is not a game that seeks to push the bar to compete with titles such as Layers of Fear, Blair Witch, Outlast or others of the same genre who prefer to stick to famous shocks of sound and surprising horror images that suddenly appear on the screen. Yes, we are talking about the famous jumpscares.
LKA leaves these “surprising” images to go raw, with the horrors of World War II as a backdrop to narrate in the foreground the decomposition of a family in Italy from the death of one of its members. Martha is dead does not opt for the easy way so that the most experienced players, roughly speaking, can smell where the scares will come from and when those moments of terror will appear that end up generating addiction, due to that emanation of adrenaline that we have mentioned that is done involuntarily With this type of works if we are one of those who get into the history and we like to be scared. Here the aim is to mislead the players so that they, without expecting it, come across harsh images that even make them consider whether to continue playing or not. Don’t expect to bounce around in your chair while playing, don’t expect to have to turn down the volume on your headphones, or need to play with the light on just in case. When Martha is Dead shows its terror and its true gender code is when, without warning, the player must take part in dismemberment or become Leatherface himself from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which, by the way, has just released a new movie on Netflix) and is himself who is being the protagonist of those macabre that we are used to seeing in the hands of serial killers in slashers or somewhat risque thrillers.
In Martha is Dead, we will wander most of the time through a typical and idyllic house in the Italian countryside and the forests that surround it. In that sense, on the part of LKA, little has been innovated or, if you want to see it in another way, it has been taken a simple way so that players have simple elements to recognize to get more hooked. In this section, we expected a more significant variety because it ends up becoming a bit repetitive, having to go through the same scenarios over and over again to advance in the story. If the scenario changed or evolved, it would be a little more enjoyable. But unfortunately, this is not the case, and when it comes to horror, it is an area that has left us a little cold.
As far as mechanics are concerned, we face a horror video game in which we will not use weapons to defend ourselves, and the combat system is non-existent. In Martha is Dead, we will be able to pick up objects, collect clues from various objectives in our inventory and touch and interact with many items that will be loose in the multiple scenarios, but of course, we will not be able to go beyond that. We can only take what we are allowed, observe closely what interests us and use the objects when necessary. In that sense, LKA entirely limits the actions that we can execute in our game. Being almost a guided video game, although we have some freedom of exploration, we do not break the limits of the areas in which we must fulfill our tasks. And that sometimes ends up being a problem.
As a general rule, when we have to solve mysteries or puzzles in horror video games, we are usually given the right and necessary clues so that we, as players, are the ones who have to solve the puzzles to continue advancing in the story and unlock new levels. However, it is almost impossible to get lost in Martha is Dead because everything is very well chewed. We even get to point out where we should look for clues on our map or where our next point of interest is. There is hardly any space to think. The feeling of being constantly guided in an escape room of terror ends up weighing down the experience a bit because there is no way to get lost in a dark or gloomy area in search of items necessary for the story’s resolution. Its atmosphere of terror, as we said, is not built from these moments, which are the standard ones, but from the user’s participation in the most heinous acts of the play. To put it more generally, Martha is Dead would be one of those Sundance Film Festival projects where critics seem to have fainted or vomited, serving as a marketing tool to sell more.
Thus, the mechanics of Martha is Dead will be known by most of the players who are used to this genre. The best, yes, is the use we give to our camera. LKA has represented authentically, shortening some processes to make it easier. Back then, it was like taking photographs (how to frame, focus, put on filters, change reels, etc.) and developing them in specific rooms with special equipment. It’s a pleasure to play paparazzi here and capture shocking images that must then be exposed to discover the truth about Martha’s death little by little. We have not gone too far into the story because it is the engine that moves everything, and the player can already use any clue, detail or information that is given in advance to get an idea of where the shots are going, and that is counterproductive in works of this style,
In the graphic section, do not expect any revolution or anything like that. We come from having games like Horizon Forbidden West, Elden Ring or Dying Light 2 that boast stunning staging and graphics. But here we are talking more about a more modest studio that uses its resources so that even sunny areas can generate some discomfort in the player, in the style of Midsommar by Ari Aster. In general terms, however, Martha is Dead fulfills its visual purposes well and focuses on excellently representing what happens in the foreground and giving great detail to the gore ., being perhaps the most general, such as trees, branches or elements of nature that are worst drawn graphically. Still, it is not something that squeaks too much. Although, yes, some other bugs can frustrate the gaming experience (falls below the map or the need to restart at a specific checkpoint due to character blocking).
Contemporary gamers and viewers are more than used to seeing shocking images. Who else who least has seen a feature film by Rob Zombie, some sequel to the already mentioned The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Friday the 13th or even been swollen to play shooters, where we endlessly slaughter enemies by bathing them in their blood. Violence is attached to this type of work and is partly necessary to understand the pain (physical or psychological) or fear that the characters are going through. Now, Martha is DeadIt has a few moments (not many) in which the player must be a part of those carnage shown on the screen, and therein lies the reason why the scissors have been taken out for a walk. The censorship has been carried out, so least from the point of view of this humble editor. In other words, it is one thing to see how a character is cut off a member (for example), and the other is to do it ourselves focused on that particular action. In Resident Evil 2 Remake, to give an example, you can even see how they cut a man in half, how they eat another man’s neck and even how a jaw is detached from the face, and there is no scissoring there, because no we are responsible for it.
In Martha is Dead, what we see hasn’t been dismembered by an impact or explosion generated by some artifact or superpower. It has been done with our own hands and in the foreground. In addition, the topics related to these huge acts are linked to somewhat delicate concepts, so censorship is not unjustified. Now, the players who approach this type of product already know what they are coming for, so in part, denying users the opportunity to experience the entire process or see the work as it was conceived is not favourable because it detracts from it.
Now, you have to know that in both the PS4 and PS5 versions, you can choose which mode you want to play, whether censored or uncensored. We are also asked on all platforms to attend certain scenes that could offend sensitivities. In the one censored for PlayStation consoles, specific racy sequences will be skipped that can cause some discomfort among the players. If we choose the uncensored one, we will also have part of the censorship because we will see those gore scenes in the foreground but not take sides in them. The interactive elements are removed, and we are only spectators; we do not take action on the matter, while on Xbox and PC, we do have to go through a series of interactions to advance the plot.
Martha is Dead has left us with a good taste in our mouths even though it could have offered much more. Take this adventure as a psychological thriller than a typical horror one. Its mechanics are somewhat classical, and it doesn’t add much in that sense, but how it puts the player in the scariest moments is true horror.
We prepared this review with a digital copy of the title for the PS5 version provided by PressEngine.