Martha is Dead is a story that starts off strong but ends up failing with a convoluted and confusing story. Many of the people who either read this review or that have heard generally about Martha is Dead knows about Sony asking to censor the gameplay of Martha is Dead and wants to learn more about it. I was in the same boat, I heard about the news and decided to see for myself. I got my hands on an uncensored copy and played through the game with no previous knowledge besides the news. These are my thoughts on what I had seen.
What is Horror?
Horror according to the Merriam-Webster definition is “Painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay”. There were several moments in this game where you could call it a horror game, walking through the woods at night, seeing a floating corpse in the lake, a blown-up corpse, and more. The reason why I gave the definition of horror was because I think that the developers confused horror with being gross and obscene. Just hearing about it does not prepare you for seeing it. Slicing the edges of a face, ripping it off, and then placing the face over your own while staring down at your bloody and disfigured sister. Opening your sisters’ coffin, unbuttoning her clothes, taking a pair of scissors, stabbing her, and slowly cutting open her stomach, then ripping out the fetus inside and placing it on her chest. Even remembering these scenes and thinking about how disgusting it was to watch and be forced to do it all, I still feel awful. Whether or not this should have been censored is not what I want to discuss, but I would be lying if I didn’t understand why.
Gameplay and Mechanics
Gameplay in Martha is Dead mainly consists of walking around the map and inspecting stuff for your character to talk about it. Occasionally, you will be able to interact with things in cutscenes, take a photo, or be given a small “mini-game” to do. Interacting with things in cutscenes usually consists of you pressing either the left or right mouse button and moving your mouse in a certain direction or if you’re on controller pressing a button and moving your joystick. The game also heavily focuses on taking photos by pulling out an old Rolleiflex camera and adjusting the exposure, aperture, focus, and more to retrieve information. To develop a photo, you go into the basement of the house where the darkroom is and go through a shortened process of developing a photo. Lastly you do these “mini-games” and that term is used loosely because it’s basically the player doing annoying running segments through bright lit-up words that spell out sentences and side quests that do mostly nothing.
The Confusing Plot
This game has an introduction that takes you in its grip and leads you to believe that there will be an exciting story ahead. Starting off with a tale about a deceased girl in a lake who takes young girls to cure her own sadness for being dead. Which follows up to the main character taking images in the forest one day when she sees a floating body in the lake, rushes out to pull it in, and finds out it’s her own twin sister who is now dead. All set during the era of World War 2 in Italy. The problem starts right as the introduction is about to end and that problem is Convenience. Throughout the story everything seems Convenient to the point where it starts to be annoying rather than enjoying. Only to find out that the reason why everything was so convenient was because of a mental illness that was beaten into her by her mother. Except that if that’s the case then half the people in this girl’s world don’t exist which means she hallucinated everything from the beginning. The plot started off so well for it just to be ruined a few seconds later.
Martha is Dead could have been a great horror game, but its own ambition made the plot confusing and annoying. The improper use of mental disabilities to explain away the story felt lazy and disappointing. If more research had been done or if the story went in a different direction, perhaps this could have been game of the year. The gameplay was excellent for the most part with an interesting photo capturing and developing system and interactive cutscenes. The obscene and goriness of the game overstayed its welcome too soon into the game and could have been improved without the player having to interact to mutilate corpses in highly graphic detail. Due to all of the bad elements of the game it gets a score of 5/10.
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