As a rule, I don’t read other people’s reviews of a work before I write mine because I like to come at each work fresh. After posting Valkyrie, I saw that several other reviews mention that the blurb on the IF comp site provides some background for Valkyrie that is not present in the game itself.
When this year’s flock of games were initially released, I downloaded the zip and didn’t look back, so I never read the blurbs. It’s not that I was trying to keep myself completely uncontaminated by material outside the game itself; it’s just that I tend not to go back to the IF comp website until it’s time to vote.
Since I hadn’t read the blurb and hadn’t seen reviews that summarized the blurb, I didn’t realize that this work was submitted as part of a Development English Course. Had I realized that this was a first effort and done as part of a course, I would have been somewhat more sympathetic, but I don’t think it would have changed my rating.
I don’t know the specifics of their assignment, but I do give either them or their instructor credit for using interactive fiction as a vehicle for language instruction. I wish their instructor had been more involved in pre-reviewing the work and helping them with both high level organization and down in the trenches grammar — maybe that was the intention, but they ran out of time (which we all know is easy to do, particularly the first time around).
My criticisms stand, but I’d encourage the authors to try again: either polishing this work for resubmission to the post comp-comp or working on another one for next year (and perhaps starting with IntroComp). Depending on the level of support the authors are receiving from their institution, they might also want to reach out to the IF community at large for help with their next work. I, and I’m sure most of the community, would be happy to beta (or alpha) test for them, as long the piece was circulated far enough ahead of the submission deadline for them to take comments into consideration.