As you may already know, I am a huge fan of horror games, especially psychological and independent ones. That means I could not leave behind the latest production by the Italian studio LKA Games, titled Martha is Dead. This is a real indie gem, however not for the faint of heart. The PlayStation version of the game was censored by Sony because of its disturbing and actually shocking scenes, which I do not understand since Martha is Dead is dedicated for mature audiences. Anyway, this title is not for everybody.
Martha is Dead is a low budget game yet one of the few that take music seriously.
Martha is Dead tells a story of a young woman who loses her twin sister. However, it is not only a game about grief and loss but also about mental health problems. It is really heartwarming and uplifting that mental health topics appear in more and more games these days, and not only independent (Visage, The Town of Light) but also big titles (Life is Strange: True Colors). The aforementioned Town of Light is the first production developed by LKA Games and tells a tragic story of a psychiatric hospital’s patient during World War II.
The Martha is Dead plot also takes place during the Second World War, which adds a lot to the whole narration, but the main character lives in a world of delusions and guilt. Hated and pushed away by her mother since childhood, she is convinced that she killed her twin sister Martha, the one their mother loved. She is not sure what is real and what is not. These dark and surreal vibes are reflected also in the game’s soundtrack, which for me is one of the most interesting implementations of music in a video game.
The most interesting part of the score in musical and compositional terms is the licensed music.
Half of the main score was composed by the Town of Light composer known as Aseptic Void, who created a bunch of melancholic and dark ambient tracks. A meditative piano, unsettling synth drones, whispers, slowed down voices, cracking noises – this is what adds additional feelings of sadness and tension to the game. The other part of the soundtrack was composed and sung by Francesca Messina, a vocalist who experiments with various music genres, from disco to medieval and folk music. She and her project Femina Ridens composed their own tracks as well as their renditions of known classics like Schubert’s Ave Maria or O Bella Ciao from the La Casa de Papel series, and also vintage style songs being played on the in-game radio.
But the most interesting part of the score in musical and compositional terms is the licensed music, two compositions performed by a Danish ensemble Between Music, taken from their Aquasonic project. The musicians perform underwater, being submerged in large aquariums, using their custom made instruments. It is an amazing acoustical and compositional experience and it can be heard in the game during the underwater scenes. Unfortunately, recently the group lost their instruments and equipment due to insurance case, so it will be very helpful to support them and donate here.
These dark and surreal vibes are reflected also in the game’s soundtrack.
Martha is Dead is a low budget game yet one of the few that take music seriously. I am really glad that smaller developers pay attention to what most of the AAA studios leave behind. Games like A Plague Tale, To the Moon, What Remains of Edith Finch, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Cry of Fear and many more are examples of an attitude that graphics and sophisticated gameplay mechanics are not the most important parts of a video game. Now we can add Martha is Dead and its devs to the list and hope that more studios will pay attention to the music and sound in general in their productions.