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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
The ending has a block of text that encourages hope and value of life after the game's last couple of hours depict violence, self-harm, and suicidal ideation. But this message is hastily tacked on to the end of an oppressively grim experience. Players can complete a side quest to expose a Nazi supply bunker so that a resistance movement can destroy it, even in spite of main character's father being a Nazi soldier (demonstrates a commitment to justice over safety and family loyalty).
Positive Role Models
Main character justifies cruelty and excessive violence because of a mental illness, but this is never made clear or portrayed in a constructive manner. One of her parents is abusive, the other is a Nazi soldier. Her love interest fights against Nazis but is only read about in letters and dialogue.
Features a female lead who is self-determined to find justice for her sister. But being the young daughter of a Nazi in a commanding position, she's seemingly uninterested in this conflict and maintains a neutral stance even after witnessing Nazi soldiers murder her love interest. Some Italian characters demonstrate ethnic prejudice against Germans for being Nazis, but game doesn't further explore theme of delineating people groups from causes. Main character has dissociative identity disorder (DID). Aspects of her condition are depicted accurately (such as child abuse being a common cause, and people like her displaying subtle rather than drastic changes in behavior), but there are unhelpful and contradictory stereotypes, such as a strong inclination to violence or constructing elaborate, fantastical realities. Story also has two female characters who become violent and insane after pregnancy complications, which may be a coincidence, but it's an eyebrow-raising correlation.
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Ease of Play
Some sequences are initially puzzling to figure out, but most of the gameplay is simple, with player wandering about an Italian countryside and performing actions with scripted and unscripted button presses. The lack of a crosshair can make interaction with smaller items momentarily frustrating.
Violence & Scariness
Many disturbing scenes with blood and gore, sometimes with an uncomfortably protracted focus or an unusual tone depicting dismemberment and mutilation. A character model has the skin of her face peeled off, which players remove and wear in an interactive sequence. Another cutscene depicts a rotting, maggot-ridden corpse while another person is hanged in the background. The player personally disembowels a corpse to remove a deformed fetus. Another cutscene depicts a man with bloody stumps for legs after running over a mine. The player holds a severed head near the end of the game. The main character has a miscarriage in bed. Self-harm is also depicted at the end. The PlayStation versions of this game offer optional censorship and skipping with most of the aforementioned scenes. The Xbox and PC versions don't provide any of these censorship options and must be watched or played, with the exception of the self-harm scene at the very end.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A couple of female characters are shown with exposed breasts on multiple occasions, including puppets and illustrations of women. In one cutscene near the end, the main character sensually glides her hands along her body with close-ups. Masturbation (in Xbox and PC versions of the game), rape, and sex are mentioned in dialogue and text but aren't shown or described.
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Language is infrequent but across the spectrum. "Damn," "bastard," "s--t," and "f--k" are used. "Slut" and "whore" are used by other characters to demean the main character.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
References to medically prescribed drugs and the potential mental effects on their users. There's a wine cellar in the main character's house, with one cutscene depicting the main character's father slightly drunk after being shown with a wine glass in hand.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Martha Is Dead is a horror adventure game with a focus on story and exploration, available on Windows PCs, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox One X/S. The player assumes control of a young woman named Giulia during World War II. She discovers that her sister Martha was drowned in a nearby lake, which is known for being haunted by a malevolent spirit. Did she kill Martha? Or could this have been a politically motivated murder? Armed with rampant curiosity and a passion for photography, Giulia takes matters into her own hands and unravels a tale where nothing is as it seems. The game has many interactive scenes with blood and gore, specifically depicting mutilation, dismemberment, and self-harm, without options to skip or censor most of these on Xbox and PC platforms, unlike the PlayStation versions. A few female characters (as well as some illustrations and puppets of women) have exposed breasts. A miscarriage is shown, along with minor mentions of sex, rape, and masturbation in dialogue. Language is infrequent but across the spectrum with words like "whore," "s--t," and "f--k."
Is It Any Good?
While this mystery looks amazing, it's gameplay and story is anything but. Martha Is Dead makes a stunning first impression with its graphics. The Italian setting is lovingly crafted to emulate its time period with mid-1900s architecture and artifacts. Players not only control handheld film cameras, telegraphs, and rotary phones, but also are informed of how this technology worked in that era. There's a commendable attention to authentic detail and atmosphere, but beyond the presentation, problems arise everywhere else. It's packed with simple fetch quests that involve little to no critical thought. Puzzles are stumbled through with ease rather than actively solved. Players take and process photos with elaborate processes, which is admirable in its realism, yet remains more like a chore than a clever or fun part of gameplay to solve mysteries and lean into the horror. In fact, Martha Is Dead has no frighteningly good scares or tension despite its promising setup, instead relying on gory imagery and distressing themes for unnecessary shock value that doesn't meaningfully contribute to the story's professed themes and purpose.
If the characters and plot were engaging, the gameplay issues could be overlooked, but Martha Is Dead ranges from erratic to droning in pacing. Lengthy, awkward animation characterizes cutscenes and player actions, along with painfully slow (and sometimes unskippable) monologues and dialogue to sit through. The story is hard to follow, with a main character who drastically shifts in her motives and moods randomly, and while this attempts to capture dissociative identity disorder through play, this intention falls apart with a story where truth and reality are impossible to discern with issues that can't just be chalked up to an exaggeration of the main character's condition. Here lies a bleak, meandering tale with a frustrating lack of focus. Martha Is Dead may look impressive, but its promise is buried in boring gameplay and a confused story.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.