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24 Feb 2022

REVIEW: Martha is Dead on Xbox

Review by Jon Donnis
Martha Is Dead is advertised as a "dark first-person psychological thriller" from the creator of The Town of Light. Set in 1944 Italy, and with an Italian language set as default, the game is designed to get into the mind of the player.

You play as Giulia, and start off as a young girl, with her grandmother reading a rather unsuitable story to her, the story of a White Lady in a lake, a ghost who lost her partner, trapped in the lake until there is fog upon which she can wonder the surrounding forest, and as is often the case, will murder young women. Lovely bedtime reading. Once the seemingly never-ending intro is finished, you fast forward in time, and get some control of your character, you find yourself setting up a camera by the lake, to try and get photos of wild animals, you then have to go through a rather tedious effort of changing the film on the camera, and since this is 1944, it is one of those very old cameras. After you put the new film in, you check to make sure you have the focus right, but upon doing this you spot a body in the lake. You run down, and by run down, you press one button and the character runs automatically, you dive in, after pressing one button, recover the body and drag to lakeside. But wait the body is your identical twin sister Martha who for some reason is wearing one of Giulia's dresses. Upon this terrible discovery, Giulia takes off Martha's necklace and puts it on herself. Your parents spot you, come to your aid, but your mother who despises you, assumes you are your deaf sister Martha and comforts you. And so, the lie begins, Martha is dead, but now you have become Martha, destined to not only pretend to be her, but also learn more about her mysterious death.

Ok that enough spoilers of the game, since that is the opening chapter.

The game itself has plenty of warnings on it for disturbing content. The PlayStation release has been censored heavily, and some scenes have been removed completely. Suffice to say this is not a kid's game. For those of you who have played The Town of Light, you might have a general idea of what to expect, but no this is much more disturbing.

There are options to skip the disturbing scenes, but then what is the point of playing if you take out the most powerful bits.

The rest of the game will have you exploring the woods and the area around the family home, the stunning Italian countryside and of course trying to contact the White Lady.

The game can be very disturbing as I mentioned, there are some horrific scenes that not only do you have to watch, but you actively take part in. You will quickly understand why the warnings were needed. If you really want to know about them, just google about what bits were censored on PlayStation and you will find it talked about. Something I will avoid here.

Think of the game more as a walking simulator, something that the person sitting next to you watching, will get as much out of it as you would playing, there is a lot of going backwards and forwards between the same locations, which can become tedious too. Giulia moves annoyingly slow, and although the atmosphere of the game is great to start with, it soon loses its impact with repetition.

There are a few puzzles to complete in the game, but most of the interactivity involves you collecting things or looking at things. Dolls, Puppets etc which help unlock memory sequences. As this is set in 1944 there are plenty of references to the war, radio news alerts, newspapers and so on.

And of course, just as you started, taking and developing photos is a big part of the game.

The Good
The graphics are stunning, and the soundtrack is fantastic.

The Bad
Th gameplay is sadly quite tedious, and although the horror elements are very well done, and will get in your head,  they are not enough on their own. I understand this is a "Narrative Driven" game, but it still needs to be enjoyable to play. And sadly, this game is more about looks than it is substance.

Really disappointing game, could and should have been so much more.
I score Martha is Dead a disappointing 4/10

Out now on all formats, but only the PC and Xbox versions are uncensored.

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