The first thing that came to mind with this Martha review is how critical car maintenance is. The number of films I’ve seen and recent games such as Silver Chains where the protagonist’s car breaks down and stops at a nearby home to use their phone. Do humour me and watch my YouTube video so it feels worthwhile editing it…
After that educated conclusion (pah!), the second thing that came to mind was why I would put myself through another horror game, knowing full well I’ll fill my pants? A couple of reasons.
Firstly, it’s a solo developer outing, Affordable Cat, and I think it’s important to don my make-believe (honest) cheerleading costume and cheer them on – especially if it’s good. Secondly, the Resident Evil reference in the promo material was a charmer.
With a lot of press material to go through, there will be times where screenshots and trailers aren’t enough, and we have to fill in the gaps in-between. Sometimes the words supplied are vague or unintentionally misleading, so it may not be what we expected when it comes to playing the game.
Martha wasn’t what I expected. What I expected was to be on the edge of my seat and freaked out at the very least. On this part, it delivered. Bear in mind, I like my horror films, but games often scare me, so it’s not that hard to tick off the box.
What did surprise me was that there wasn’t as much combat as expected. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there was an inkling that there would be more things to shoot at and that ammunition would be abundant.
Plenty Of Unlockables
But first, there are so many unlockables in this game, though not new skins or skills, but the number of doors you have to unlock. This goes with the genre and fair; it does instil a bit of fear as to what is behind the door, or where you should look next.
It’s linked to the storytelling element as well, as the previous owners of the property commissioned an intricate key system to keep things out and in. It’s a bit of a tardis for a seemingly small property, and I have to say, the level design a.k.a. architecture, is excellent.
The abandoned home you visit is realistic. There aren’t extra rooms for the sake of gameplay, and it doesn’t feature unsightly wings, considering that the aristocracy doesn’t own the property. But hold your horses a minute: what’s Martha about?
If you clicked on this review on the off-chance, to summarise, Martha is a first-person survival horror. You play an investigative reporter whose car breaks down on route to an estate with some bad juju associated with it. The local authorities don’t want to know, and you can figure that there’s something pretty sinister underlying.
A Ghostly, Ghastly Tale
Martha’s story is told through the numerous notes you find throughout the property. Initially, you want to use the phone to call a mechanic out, but one piece of info after the next whets the appetite for this journo, and she has to find out more.
Without trying to ruin it for you, there aren’t that many things to shoot at, and the one thing you regularly shoot at, will keep coming back. That’s the Resident Evil 7 reference there, and it’s a good ‘un. The antagonist is the epitome of that; frequently stopping you in your tracks whenever you want to move forward.
In some respect, that’s what made Martha slightly easier as upon death, you keep everything you’ve found. Because of this, I seldom had any need for healing – I’d die! – and as a result, when finishing the story, unlocked an achievement related to health. Last time I did that was Resident Evil 2 on the PS One. Bonzer.
One of the positive aspects is there isn’t any backtracking. Sure, you’ll revisit rooms that were previously locked, but there’s no jumping through hoops. The moments of complacency was when I couldn’t locate where two items were, and getting killed each time I went upstairs.
And Stay Down!
There came the point where I was playing the stealth game. I say stealth, but what I mean was I wasn’t using my guns – other than on a few peripheral characters that crop up. Those areas required some gunpowder, and quite frankly, was fun to use.
Ammo wasn’t sparse as such, but as the antagonist has the buoyancy of a T-100 when downed, it gets to the point where the combat did feel more survival than gratuitous Rambo money shots. Still, it was satisfying to down them, not so much when they got back up.
One thing I did note was the sound production. There wasn’t an ever-present score that dominated. It could have worked both ways, but other than some unsettling screaming, there wasn’t any cheap jump scares. Within reason, Martha felt more believable than most, and while there are references to ‘evil doings’ and all, it wasn’t bordering too much on fantasy, and perhaps more reason why I enjoyed it so much.
While horror games aren’t my forte, I really enjoyed Martha. I’m sure Affordable Cat has dabbled with some sort of witchcraft to produce something as good as this as a first-time developer, because when I compare it to other titles, it’s just so polished, in context.
Yes, it’s an indie game there will always be something someone moans about. Still, it did everything I would expect from a game of this type from my orange box. It made me uncomfortable, added playtime because I was too hesitant to move forward, but added intuitive puzzles that made me feel mildly intelligent.
Martha Review Summary
Chilling, expertly designed, and well-executed lighting use, Martha isn’t the longest game, but if you’re a scaredy-cat like me, you could probably triple the playtime. But you know what? In the kingdom of Blighty, this game is currently listed at £2.60 – at full price, £2.89. Seriously…