Martha is Dead Critique

Apr. 1, 2022

Before we dive into it, it’s worth mentioning that even if the name of the game doesn’t already ring a bell, the controversy of Soyny demanding certain imagery and/or scenes be censored was a fairly big topic in the gaming sphere a while back. With that in mind, if anyone should want to play the game then going for either the PC or Xbox versions should be preferable.


Martha is Dead is not an action game, it does not contain any QTEs or anything of the like – it’s purely a story told through the interactive medium of a game. If walking simulators aren’t something which interests you, this game will most likely not be of interest either. However, if one can appreciate a game with less bang and more of a good and fairly unique story, then do keep reading.

Psychological horror stories is something which is hard to do right, and making effective use of the gaming medium is arguably even harder, but Martha is Dead comes much closer than most other games. It’s by no means perfect, but LKA seems to have found a certain way of utilizing the medium and developing games which make good use of the added dimension which it allows. However, that’s not to say the game is without flaws.

The core of the game’s issue is the same as with jump scare games, in that there’s nothing more terrifying than one’s own imagination, and once you’ve showed the player what they’re supposed to be scared of, that fear will inevitably fade as you progress. Martha is Dead comes across as trying so incredibly hard to be shocking and in your face about its story’s disturbing main topic, that the desired effect quickly gives room to little more than a slight sense of discomfort; and at times, even gives way for annoyance.

While it’s understandable that developers might’ve felt the need to up their previous creation, higher fidelity and overly shocking scenes aren’t exactly the best way of making the audience feel uncomfortable. In this regard, the game has failed. That said, what’s there is a good story which does a reasonably well job of constructing characters which feel real – no one comes across as too out of place.

The characters, if looked at by themselves, are fine just as they are, and the story is a fine example of a solid, good topic which are horrific in more ways than one. Taken as individual parts, these really are great, but when taken as a whole and part of the game, there’s multiple ways it all kinda falls apart – though not fatally so, in the way the game is unplayable, and I’m not saying I regret my time (too much) with it.

A good example of the ways the game fails to deliver its story, is where there’s a section where you’re in control of a puppet show, during which you will be forced to take control of a representation of the main character, which really does a rather good job of painting this horrific picture of past events. In fact, the section would have gotten full marks on effective storytelling, if said segment wasn’t oh-so slightly undermined by the use of sound effects, which, for a lack of better words, sounded so silly they had me chuckling at one point. Not exactly what the developers had in mind, I’m sure.

The aforementioned scene could just as easily have been delivered without any actual voice acting, but instead they chose to recreate it in a “more impactful” way. While I commend the developers for testing new waters in that way, the result is that one of the bits from the game I remember most vividly is those silly Woosh! sounds which the voice actress made. Maybe that’s me being a silly dumbo which can’t appreciate the performance or whatever, but I’d argue that the point still stands.

If I’d experienced this kind of a story in novel-form, I’m honestly not sure I’d been able to stomach finish it. The game, albeit certainly extremely visually impactful at times, I fairly easily sat through with relative ease.

Martha is Dead’s a good example of how less is more. While the imagery is very much more shocking and so on, LKA’s previous game, The Town of Light, will most likely remain as the game which left a greater impact. It lacked the fancy graphics and, for the most part, it was fairly devoid of shocking imagery, instead leaving the player’s imagination to run with the story.


Information

English: Martha is Dead
Russian: Марта мертва
Developer: LKA

Resources

Steam: Link
Xbox: Link

Rating

While Martha is Dead is by no means a bad game, it falls short on several points when compared to LKA’s previous creation.

Story: 7/10
Graphics: 6/10
Sound: 6/10
Overall: 6/10