Martha Is Dead has garnered quite a lot of interest after its initial trailer dropped. It promised horror fans – which of course includes myself – an intriguing and incredibly horrific experience with its creepy atmosphere, war-torn setting and disturbing imagery. Sadly, Martha Is Dead has failed to live up to the hype due to its myriad of problems, bad gameplay and disappointing crashes.
“There seem to be scenes in Martha Is Dead that are designed entirely to gross the player out.”
Let’s get one thing out of the way: Martha Is Dead does not shy away from gore or disturbing imagery. Before it had even launched, the game’s somewhat questionable graphic imagery was brought into question. Sony even went a step further and removed some of the interactive elements.
Fortunately for those playing on PlayStation, it doesn’t feel as if you miss out on anything. In fact, their absence might even make it better. Because even with them gone, there are scenes in Martha Is Dead that are designed entirely to gross the player out. They don’t offer anything particularly interesting to the story nor of substance to the game. While you could argue that they add to the overall unease felt throughout the game, I felt that they were a little too gratuitous and unnecessary.
Luckily, for those who have a more nervous disposition, there is an option to censor the game. You’re presented this option at the start, and I encourage anyone who dislikes gore to turn it on. However, should you find it is getting too much later on in your playthrough, the option is always accessible.
“I found the gameplay to be incredibly dull and was often just aimlessly looking for something to photograph.”
Regrettably, even if you can look past the horrible stuff, enjoying the gameplay might be the next challenge you face. If you’re expecting Resident Evil style gunplay, then you might have to look elsewhere. A large focus of Martha is Dead is on photography. However, while this may seem like an intriguing concept to some, I found it to be incredibly dull as I was often just wandering around aimlessly, looking for something to photograph.
Even should you find a suitable subject for your photograph, that unfortunately isn’t the end of the rather uninspired proceedings. This is the 40s, so there are no easy mobile-phone cameras on hand. Instead, you have to trail back to your house to develop the images you have taken. While this certainly adds realism, it also feels like an annoying mini-game. I found myself arduously waiting for the photos to develop just so that I could uncover the next part of the story.
Alas, this isn’t the only tedious activity in Martha is Dead. There is another section involving a telegraph. In this, you have to work out the correct phrasing in order to send a message. Once done, you must tap this message out in Morse code. All of this is of course a little annoying and time-consuming. However, it is made worse when the return message comes back in Morse code. As someone who doesn’t know how to decode Morse code, I found myself relying on the internet for assistance. This completely broke my immersion.
“There is no correction, no definitive ending.”
Throughout the game, you aim to uncover the mystery around the death of your sister; the titular Martha. Progression is made through the aforementioned exploration and mini-games, all told through the eyes of a somewhat disturbed twin. To the game’s credit, it does try really hard to convey your character’s instability and utilises disturbing dream sequences and other more subtle nods to imply that maybe things aren’t as clear-cut as they first seem.
Unfortunately, despite the game doing a somewhat decent job at conveying certain aspects of its narrative, in the end, it all comes crashing down. There isn’t really a definitive ending to satisfyingly tie everything together. Instead, the developers opted to include choices that determine your outcome, but this made it all feel rather flat. Instead of having something conclusive, or a fulfilling ending that elicits an emotional response, you get a series of choices that feel diluted.
“Martha Is Dead isn’t worth the asking price, and will likely leave players feeling more frustrated than fascinated.“
To make matter worse, Martha Is Dead is riddled with bugs. While these may potentially be ironed out in further updates, in my short six-hour playtime, I had to close the game five times. This was due to the game freezing, getting stuck in scenery or the dialogue getting stuck on a repeating loop.
Similarly, I experienced frequent bugs when attempting to use the camera. The most egregious example of this was when I simply moved the left stick, resulting in my character suddenly walking backwards. It wouldn’t stop until I had to forcibly exit the camera mode. One final gripe, although admittedly is due to personal taste, there is also no option to skip cutscenes or dialogue, even when reading a piece of paper you have already read once before.
Martha Is Dead aims to explore the fragility of the human mind. It looks at issues of identity, abuse, and the horrors of war, all rolled into one experience. Unfortunately, the gameplay simply drags and leaves you feeling bored rather than enthralled. In its current state, Martha Is Dead isn’t worth the asking price, and will likely leave players feeling more frustrated than fascinated.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PS5, code was provided by the Publisher.