Publisher: Wired Productions
Release Date: 02/24/2022
Also Available On
Adventure games that both have shock value and a good story are rare and hard to come by, sadly, Martha is Dead is not one of those. You would mistakenly think this is some sort of horror game with monsters and demons, but it’s barely even that. This is a ghost story, a story about battling mental illness, and a story about surviving WWII in Axis Italy. You play Guilia who is Martha’s twin sister. This is a detective game more than anything with plot twists and an interesting vintage camera system.
The game starts out simple enough. Introducing controls, the plot, character building, the whole nine yards that adventure games typically put you through. Martha is Dead’s best feature is the camera system. While you can take photos anywhere (I don’t know why you would) you need it for specific plot points. Guilia is trying to talk to The White Lady of the lake and find out why her sister died. This is kind of the first half of the story as it jumps around so much. The game is very plodding, slow, and constantly leads you on for little payoff. Taking photos for objectives is simple enough. Just get the focus and distance right and snap the photo. You then get to develop the photo, but instead of taking you through the entire complicated process, the game explains to you what that is and says it cut 90% out for better gameplay. Why? You just focus and position the negative for exposure and then develop it in liquid but the point you stop it is the same for every photo. A pretty lame “mini-game” if you ask me with tons of lost potential.
With the camera feature out of the way, there are other small gameplay things you do such as a morse code mini-game which I actually enjoyed. I had to look up a morse code chart online and decipher it myself. That was actually well done and made me think, but that’s the only part that did. 75% of the game is spent in Guilia’s house or the wood’s winding paths. There are a few scenes where you control a motorboat, but it’s just to get to the other side of the lake. You are mostly wandering around at a slow pace going from point A to B and interacting with objects. Go check out the graveyard, go back to the house and develop the photo, go back to the lake and find an underground bunker, go back to the house and put up a flag. The constant backtracking is tiring and clearly used for filler.
Then the last hour of the game is zero gameplay. It consists of long puppet shows recapping the entire story like you already didn’t know what happened. The story thinks it’s more complicated than it is. Honestly, the puppet shows are cool-looking, but they didn’t advance the story. The story here gets recapped numerous times in various forms which are really annoying and make the player feel dumb. After the puppet show stuff you just walk around interesting scenes with narration and that’s it. The best parts of the game are the gory death scenes which are pretty nutty. They would make Mortal Kombat fans blush. But in total, this is maybe five minutes of the entire game. There’s a bike you can ride, but the control is terrible and it’s only used to ride around the house and surrounding path, so what’s the point with that?
Then there are the visuals. Yes, the game looks damn good. Crazy detailed textures, amazing lighting effects, and models, and it just looks like a AAA title, but at what cost? The game runs horribly on even my RTX 2080 that’s overclocked. There is ray tracing in the game, but I couldn’t tell the difference between that and ultra graphics settings. I feel this was put in more for next-gen consoles for a subtle effect. The game has constant stutters, frame drops, weird frame rates with ray tracing on, and even DLSS set to ultra-performance. At 3440×1440 I had scenes that ran at above 60FPS with ray tracing on and then I would turn around and the frames would drop by over half. Without DLSS? Forget it. The game would drop into single digits one second and then inside the house it would be 90FPS. Super terrible optimization all around here and even with DLSS set to ultra-performance without ray tracing I still saw dips under 60FPS. Totally unacceptable. DLSS shouldn’t be used as a crutch.
Overall, Martha is Dead mostly relies on shock value for the few scenes that have it. It’s neither a horror game nor a puzzle game. It’s just an adventure game with various story elements tossed together with boring backtracking and little gameplay to keep you interested. The photo mode is ambitious but purposefully handicapped when it could have been as robust as real-life photography back in WWII. It’s a missed opportunity. The game spoils itself constantly with frequent story recaps and in the end, there’s a final plot twist. The story runs its course about two-thirds of the way through and you’re left with a giant recap scene with no crazy finale that most adventure games have.