REVIEW – Censored on PlayStation for its disturbing scenes, the horror game Martha is Dead leaves its mark with its own particular brand of morbidity.
Explorers of psychological disorders, ten creative teams from LKA Studios first made their debut in 2016 with The Town of Light, an adventure that explored the theme of mental health. Since then, the team based at the gates of Florence has created a new work that evokes this, but with a much more raw and brutal tone. Martha is Dead is a harrowing thriller set in the Tuscan countryside still reeling from the Second World War. Giulia, the daughter of a high-ranking Nazi, discovers the bloated corpse of her twin sister Martha in a lake. The mysteries surrounding her death are now to be unravelled. “The only payback I hope never to see is indifference. If I read about Martha is Dead as ‘just another horror play’ it would really hurt me,” artistic director Luca Dalco said recently. Well, it works, the new LKA play frankly leaves no one cold – for better or worse.
Martha is Dead is definitely not recommended for the faint-hearted or the young, but only for those who are not afraid of visually disturbing interpretation. The warning right at the beginning reads, “Not recommended for players who may be disturbed by illustrations involving blood, dismemberment, mutilation of human bodies, minor nudity and self-mutilation.” Although it belongs to the larger family of psychological thrillers, the title also explores the complexity of the soul and trauma, with horrific violence. “I love horror when it doesn’t just try to scare you with visions and sounds,” Luca Dalco shared a few weeks earlier.
The developers have told a sick body horror story that will make your jaw drop and your stomach turn. Envious of Martha’s “privileged treatment” (yes, you read that right), Giulia steals the woman’s identity and passes her body off as her own. Then, in a metaphorical performance, she skins her twin sister’s face, just as the Leatherface would have done to one of his victims. This particularly disturbing first act is merely the first in a long series of atrocities to be committed. Martha is Dead forces us to commit the unthinkable in very intimate spheres and presents some truly disturbing scenes. After six hours of bathing in a sea of abominations that undeniably serve a purpose, it’s hard to finish the game without being left with a gruesome spectacle. LKA’s game appeals to the hardcore, sick horror gaming target audience, sparking debate about its cruelty.
Travel to Italy
In our investigation into Martha’s death, short sequences follow one another, often dictating an impeccable pace. The exploration of the environments is interspersed with cinematic transitions interspersed with well-drawn shots. Overall, the graphics are excellent. Martha is Dead is essentially a walking simulator that carefully guides you through a gritty but well-crafted story. An optional mission offers a bit of freedom when the player is faced with a moral decision. However, the game is essentially linear.
And the landmarks on the map often deprive the player of real exploration. On the other hand, the game gives you a precious camera, an object Giulia treasures. The accessory has a nice depth of field: depending on the subject being photographed, you have to change the filter, lens, exposure and brightness. The images reveal new narrative aspects. Developing them in the red room will be time-consuming due to constant manipulations. The most disturbing factor will be the mystery surrounding Martha, which often explodes in a war environment before culminating in an ending that is somewhat ludicrous.
The horrors of Martha is Dead provide a pleasant contrast to the summery Italian countryside. On a PC, you’ll need at least a GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD RX 580 with 2 GB of VRAM to comfortably traverse the barren paths of this walking simulator. No framerate drops are unfortunately experienced from time to time. The photorealism provides a stunning sense of immersion, from the picturesque rooms of a family home to the always ominous paths leading to the fateful lake. From the first moments of the game, Giulia’s face shows tiny scratches, a testament to the care taken to the authenticity of the graphics.
The panoramas are complemented by remarkable sound effects and music. Our walks are sometimes enhanced by the sound of fighter jets or birdsong. Giulia’s house is equipped with radios, from which a handful of short songs or reinvented classics, such as O Bella Ciao, escape.
Only for those with strong nerves!
A disturbing, sometimes unsettling Martha is Dead horror play for mature and informed audiences who can handle the genre. Its stunning summer Tuscan tableaux are interspersed with gory and gruesome scenes, made all the more shocking by the impeccable presentation. LKA has created a very solid crime thriller at the beginning, which gradually descends into perhaps overdone morbidity and an unfortunately rather weak ending.
+ Captivating plot until the last moment
+ Impeccable empathy
+ The beautiful Tuscan landscape
– Too easy to walk around simulator
– Too easy to navigate
– The photography is quite time consuming
Publisher: Wired Productions
Genres: horror adventure game
Publication: February 25, 2022