Martha is Dead comes from the studio responsible for the popular Town of Light, LKA. A new first-person horror game, Martha is Dead is far closer to the studio’s debut title than Resident Evil Village. You won’t be stacking ammo or facing-off against twisted supernatural beings armed with a shotgun. Instead, you’ll be living the life of a girl that has a very unfortunate encounter.
The game begins with some exposition of the main character. You hear an old wives tale about a beautiful women dressed in white that murders people being told to you as a child. You learn about the setting and a favourite hobby of your character – photography – before heading into the woods yourself to play with a camera. However, upon setting up and focusing your view, you see something unusual in your favourite lake: a floating body. Upon rushing out in an attempt to save her, you find that she is dead. Once back to shore, you discover the horrible truth: the dead body is that of Martha, your twin sister.
You, Giulia, and your sister Martha are identical twins. To the point where even your own parents can’t tell you apart. In a moment of madness, when you parents arrive on the scene and assume you are Martha, you acknowledge this is the case. In an instance you have done something which cannot be undone. And to make matters worse, Martha was deaf. And so now you have to live as Martha, pretending to be deaf.
For Giulia this is both a blessing and a curse. Your mother holds some hatred towards you, blaming your for many things including Martha losing her hearing. However, you also have to struggle with the knowledge that not only are you betraying your sister, but also must commit to actions that you know you could otherwise prevent because you retain your ability to hear. The premise of Martha is Dead is nothing less than intriguing, and this is even before we throw the fact that it’s a wartime story into the mix.
The game itself is a horror experience. And a particularly gruesome one at that. Much of the horror comes from within; from Giulia’s own nightmares surrounding her actions. An early dream sequence sees you cutting off the face of your dead and placing it atop your own. Later encounters with the aforementioned supernatural will genuinely spook you.
Outside of the gruesomeness, Martha is Dead moves at a slow pace. The photography element of the game is key to progression, but we’re not talking Fatal Frame here. It’s a slow a decisive representation of 1940s photography that will have you applying lenses and other attachments to find clues in the pictures you develop.
Other challenges will have you solving small puzzles and locating items. None of the gameplay is particularly challenging, but it is well balanced to maintain the delicate pacing of the game. LKA have clearly shown restraint in not throwing everything at you all at once, and instead relaxing you into an unwinding story with a bitter twist.
The so carefully crafted atmosphere is supported by some commendable visuals and an excellent soundtrack. It’s frequently remarkable how deep the game draws you with seemingly very simple tasks. And when it does, the timing of events unravelling is pitch-perfect. There are some pretty significant visual issues should you choose to wander off the beaten track – at one point, we encountered the floor rising up to swallow us and prevent us from moving in all directions, forcing a save reload – however it’s likely that LKA will fix these issues sooner rather than later.
Town of Light was a game that found LKA a niche. They had an audience looking for more, and Martha is Dead is sure to satisfy. More than that however, it’ll only help to grow this audience, and in turn bring more success to LKA. Success that on the basis of this second title, has truly been earned.