Martha is Dead Review – PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC

Like, really, really dead
martha is dead key art 1920x1080

Like, really, really dead

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I would argue most gamers hadn’t heard of Martha is Dead. A psychological horror game, Martha is Dead takes place in Italy in 1944 and follows the story of Giulia after the death of her twin, the aforementioned Martha if you hadn’t already guessed from the title.

All pretty standard fare when it comes to horror games. So what makes Martha is Dead any different? In short, nothing much, but for whatever reason, the powers that be at Sony decided certain aspects of Martha is Dead required censorship. In 2022.

Game Information
Release Date: February 24th, 2022
Developer: LKA
Publisher: Wired Productions
Availability: PSN, Microsoft Store, Steam, Retailer (Amazon UK/Amazon USA)

Such a decision kicked up quite the hornet’s nest, and it is this, not the dark and twisted story or the narrative-driven gameplay, that thrust Martha is Dead into the spotlight. Martha is Dead went from a game on the cusp of release that most of us had never heard of to a game horror fans could not wait to play almost overnight.

There is no such thing as bad publicity, or so the saying goes, and with that in mind, the developers at LKA must have been rubbing their hands together. After six hours of play and watching the credits roll, I didn’t know what all the fuss was about. Yes, there are gory sequences, but none more outlandish or brutal than a few other games I have played. Did I feel uncomfortable? At times, yes, but is this enough for the game to warrant censorship? I’m a little conflicted on that one.

In a nutshell, Martha is Dead is driven forward mainly by its narrative, and from the start, it didn’t really grip me in ways that it really should. Although aspects of its story are interesting, overall it is a fairly standard horror game. After discovering her sister drowned in the lake, Giulia assumes the identity of her sister Martha and the game goes from there in what is one of the strangest decisions I have ever encountered in a video game, but more on that a little later.

martha is dead villa

By default the audio narration is set to Italian, which I admit did have a slightly more immersive effect on me than I originally thought it would. In standard British fashion, I quickly sacked that off and changed it to English to avoid having to read every single line of dialogue, and I must say that the English narration doesn’t seem to convey the same level of urgency or imbue Giulia with as much personality as the Italian one does, instead, it comes off as a dry and devoid of emotion. When paired with some of the events on screen, this does come across as a little jarring.

This is a major missed opportunity, as not only does narration do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to telling the story, but there are some quite gory aspects to what happens at certain points throughout the game. The sad thing is these few sections feel a little shoe-horned in, or simply there for the sake of shock value, adding little extra other than a bit of blood and guts into what is a twist on the traditional Lady in the Lake story.

*Spoilers for an early section of the game if you want to skip the next two paragraphs.*

A major example of this takes place early on. During a dream sequence, you, as Guilia, cut off Martha’s face to symbolise assuming her identity. This is shocking in its detail, from cutting into her face to then pulling off the skin and exposing the muscles and tissue underneath before wearing it as a mask. Playing out in first person it is no wonder it is one of the sections Sony decided to censor (instead of requiring input from the player it now runs as a cutscene). This symbolism is a bit on the nose, particularly when you take into account that after only a few short chapters another similar dream sequence occurs in which Giulia returns the face-skin of her sister as she comes to terms with her own identity.

martha is dead martha dead

Not only does this rob the scene of some of its impact, the consequences of such an action feel shallow when she simply returns the face a little while later. Why put that scene in at all with that being the case? It was already clear that Giulia had assumed Martha’s identity from what had happened, including the actions she had taken and the internal narration that explains the guilt and worries that Giulia is experiencing. As a result, this scene just feels a little heavy-handed in its execution, feeling like a gory scene for the sake of being a gory scene.

*End of spoilers*.

The few scenes that do shock in their brutality rely heavily on shock value more than any outright jump-scare or horror in the typical sense of the word, failing to add much more to the story than what has already been established. Much of what Giulia experiences in these moments, while certainly uncomfortable or at times hard to watch, feel a little needless in what they depict. Along with the previous paragraph’s scene, there are two more equally disquieting sections; one in a bath and another in the family crypt, that both rely on blood and gore in order to elicit a reaction more than bring the story forward in any meaningful way.

The thing that all these scenes have in common is they feel a little redundant. The story does a good enough job of conveying what is going on without the need to depend on gore or graphic detail. I am in no way squeamish or a prude when it comes to this kind of thing, but they just feel cheap when they feel like they are just there for the sake of it, particularly the scene in the family crypt, and as a result, these graphic and adult moments end up feeling childish and shallow.

martha is dead camera

Omitting these scenes entirely wouldn’t have any negative impact on the overall game or its narrative. If you’d rather, the game does allow you to play a further censored version if you wish, with this option presented to you at the start. I didn’t play this section but I assume it cuts out or pixelates these scenes in question, and as a result, I don’t think the game would suffer at all if you opted to play this version. Martha is Dead does not shy away from the fact it is a graphic game. Even having said all that, I still think censorship is a cheap way out, particularly when it is preferred to offending people who probably shouldn’t be playing the game in the first place, especially when you take into account all the warnings that the game offers from the start.

Having so far spent the better of 800 words discussing censorship and the nature of Martha is Dead, the real question is; is the game any good?

I will admit I was pleasantly surprised with the time I spent playing. Although the story didn’t really grip me, Martha is Dead is a wonderful looking game, and I was surprised at the level of detail that the villa and surrounding vicinity contained.

martha is dead villa 2

Martha is Dead takes place over a small area consisting of a villa, a surrounding forest and a lake. This area is initially fun and interesting to explore, but this does quickly wane. Martha is Dead requires a lot of back and forth between the villa and the lake, and make no mistake, this is no action-adventure game. Even using the sprint button Giulia lacks a little when it comes to pace, so this back and forward can get a little tiresome, especially during the game’s second half.

A standout when playing is the surprisingly deep photography system that much of the story uses. Giulia is a keen photographer, and early on you come to possess an authentic era camera. Through an initial tutorial, you are shown how to take photos, adjust the focus and exposure or even combine different lenses to apply filters and effects. Once each photo has been taken, you are then tasked with developing them using the darkroom found in the basement of the villa.

On paper that might sound rather boring, but in practice, the game makes each section interesting and fun to the point that I was surprised at how much I enjoyed these sections, even if they do feel a little overused towards the end. Some of the game’s collectables incorporate these features, and by using a special infrared film you can photo things invisible to the naked eye, further adding to the otherworldly goings-on. Plus, the camera is available to us at almost any point, not limiting you to particular sections or areas.

martha is dead lake

During my six or so hours with Martha is Dead I did experience a wide variety of bugs, ranging from the small and easy to ignore, but up to and including a few rather unpleasant ones. These included 4 separate instances of the game soft locking when playing on PS5, and two where the game outright crashed to the home screen. Luckily Martha is Dead has quite a robust auto-save system, so the few times I did encounter an issue I was lucky in that I didn’t lose too much progress.

After all that, is Martha is Dead any good? To be totally honest I was surprised that I did find myself enjoying some of the game’s additional features. Taking photos using the camera and developing them is fun, alongside a side quest that has you send and receive covert messages using morse code. The world is surprisingly detailed and fun to explore in parts, but the story itself leaves a lot to be desired.

Between the few gory sections that feel heavy-handed to a few gameplay decisions that seem to make no sense (thinking particularly about a sudden sharp twist that happens during the game’s final act which comes a little out of left field), Martha is Dead is not a game without problems. As someone who would not consider themselves a horror fan, I was shocked at how much I actually enjoyed playing Martha is Dead, and I’ll definitely keep my eyes out to see what LKA do next.

Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.

Primary version tested: PS5

Summary - Good

Martha Is Dead
60 100 0 1
Martha is Dead is at times a brutal first-person psychological horror game that relies heavily on gory sections to keep its thin story afloat. It can't be denied that even though its story leaves a lot to be desired. Under the surface, there is a small amount of charm that is helped along by detailed environments and enjoyable photography sections, which may just be enough to keep you playing until the credits roll on its 6 or so hours of playtime.
Martha is Dead is at times a brutal first-person psychological horror game that relies heavily on gory sections to keep its thin story afloat. It can't be denied that even though its story leaves a lot to be desired. Under the surface, there is a small amount of charm that is helped along by detailed environments and enjoyable photography sections, which may just be enough to keep you playing until the credits roll on its 6 or so hours of playtime.
Total Score

The Good

  • Highly detailed world that is fun to explore
  • Photography minigame is great, offering surprising depth
  • Quite short to beat should you be looking for something quick and easy to finish

The Bad

  • Gory sections seem to be there simply to shock, adding nothing to the story
  • Has more than it's fair share of bugs, from the laughable to the extreme
  • Story leaves a lot to be desired, especially towards the games conclusion
  • Moving from A to B gets boring by the game's end