8-Bit Contest 2010
A Round Table Discussion by
Jeremy Bursey, Red Maverick Zero, Kingston C. Rockwell, Shizuma, and Twin Hamster
Compiled by Paul Harrington

The 2010 8-Bit Contest has come and gone, with the results available in this very issue. This year saw the release of five games, and I decided that rather than write five full length reviews (afterall, the games are pretty short), I'd try to gather a group of community members to have a dialogue on these games. Each of the five participants chose one of the games to lead the discussion on, and we had some fun back-and-forth about the pros and cons of these five titles. Let's see what they have to say!

Bell of Chaos
Download Here

Bell of Chaos by James Paige is a sidescrolling game. It's a bit different from ones I've played before as it seems to use some voodoo to use the Hero and Enemy graphics as animated sprites. How this is done I don't know, but we're dealing with James Paige here. The game is fairly playable, and it's a bit like a Master System game. It's not a smooth wonderful 2D platformer but it's pretty fun, and it looks great. It's got the whole Metroid or Castlevania thing going on, you have a non-linear progression where you gain powers to progress.

An odd thing about the game is how the innovative feature that makes it unique, the bell which you use to attack, is somewhat the weak point as well. Controlling the thing takes some getting used to but is even then unreliable and can whip you around involuntarily. Still, I appreciate the effort to not simply do a ordinary platform game on OHR and scale it down, because I often find those to be redundant plotscripting showcases. In the same light I like how James did something different artistically, not his usual Bob the Hamster stuff, but rather a whole Mesopotamian theme. It's a good example of showing what this engine can do while making a worthy game with lots of room for the future at the same time.
Jeremy Bursey:
In regard to the Bell of Chaos itself, I just wanted to say that the bell's unpredictability adds to its charm. Yeah, I would've preferred the ability to wield the thing like a whip or a yo-yo. That would make the game far easier. But it is a two hundred-pound bell. I think it's pretty cool that James made it awkward to use. Maybe it was blind plotscripting luck. Or ingenious. I'm not sure which.
Twin Hamster:
When I first played through it, I was expecting something completely different in terms of gameplay (Okay, I was imagining Castlevania 1-3).

And while the game was certainly fluid and beautiful and charming, I just couldn't get myself to squeeze much fun out of it.
I tried a few techniques for defeating enemies, such as: running forward and quickly going in the opposite direction, expecting the bell to continue swinging forward (The maps were too small for this to work out) or jumping up and down hoping desparately to tea-bag my targets (I fell faster than the bell).

Pretty much everything led to me getting hurt, so I just tried my best to avoid everything.

Throwing the bell was also a pain. I am at least thankful that having it fall on the heroine does not result in damage.

I heard that James updated the game a bit, and that it apparently makes it more playable.
Kingston C. Rockwell:
I like the game's aesthetic, it was, like Shiz said, like an old Sega game mixed in with a neat Mesopotamian setting.  The game looked and sounded very good.  That being said, I found the bell entirely unwieldy and the game itself nigh-unplayable.  I appreciated the innovation behind its mechanics and the way it affected other areas (like the pillars you have to throw the bell over first because you can't jump high enough with it), but in execution it wasn't as smooth.  The fact that you can hardly attack an enemy without taking damage yourself is kinda crazy.  I ended up avoiding any confrontations because of how cumbersome combat was.

The problem with throwing the bell is it didn't change the damage significantly, and you'd just have to jump back into the fray to pick it up again. If we got some significant knockback after the enemies take damage (i mean, it's a giant bell after all), it might've been a much smoother experience.The only enemy who is efficiently dealt with by throwing the bell are the flying sphinxes, and they die after one hit anyway.

Not only that, but the controls were a bit troublesome as well.  Not only does the opening textbox actually leave the jump and act keys blank, forcing the players to find it themselves, but the placement can lead to a lot of accidental Windows Key, and having the start menu pop up and make the window inactive when you're surrounding by bads isn't any fun.  What's wrong the the spacebar, James?  The spacebar will always love you.

I did like the way the default name was randomized at the beginning of each game.  I suspect all the names are pulled from Mesopotamian demigoddesses?

Oh, and on the way the game pulls hero and enemy graphics, I suspect that's done with slices, but I haven't played around with that feature enough to give you any specifics.
As I was saying, sure the bell is just what makes the game unique, but it is also the problem. It can be unique and not a problem, it's just a matter of being able to control the bell in more predictable and rewarding ways, not so much a matter of being "easier." It's a new idea so of course it's rough around the edges but can be refined.
Feeding off of this, what I had wanted to say earlier was that I appreciated the smooth chain mechanic enough that I was almost willing to overlook the clunkiness of the battle system. However, I wholeheartedly agree that one of the reasons I really didn't get anywhere with this game was because I couldn't really do anything effective with it.
When I think of a Bell of Chaos, what I want is for things to happen when it rings. Whether the demigoddess carries around a mallet to hit the side, or just shakes it really hard, I want some kind of external control that creates onscreen chaos for the bad guys. Maybe lightning flies out of the bell. Or bats. Maybe Zeus descends from the clouds and asks the demigoddess to stop ringing that infernal bell. Merely throwing the bell into a crowd feels like it only gets half the job done. But I still appreciate the logic behind how she carries the bell. It shows that the OHR can handle some kind of physics engine. I think this will be the first step in a new direction for OHR platform games, and maybe some RPGs if anyone's creative enough to attempt a physics engine.
Red Maverick Zero:
I agree with all of you guys, that the controls were completely clunky. It was tough making jumps, and after a while I ended up just running over the bad guys and not even bothering trying to fight them. Most of the time, the enemies would drop less health than it took me to kill them. I do whole-heartedly applaud James' creativity. I've never seen a game like this.

In regards to all of this, I know it seems minor, but I think one of my largest complaints was that his title screen looked very cheap. We all know James can draw, very well. When we got Baconthulu, it had a really wonky creative screen, and Wandering Hamster's has always been great.
Personally I wouldn't fault the controls too much. For a game on this engine the control was actually rather good, it jumps when I press jump and it was all way more "fluid" and like an actual action game than the usual attempt. What I take from it is that the game is a good direction, sure it's not perfect, but I'm not sure if action games can ever be perfect on this engine. But it sure shows we can go more towards the direction of excellent playability and this game might just be the one to do it with further updates since we have the creator of the engine on the job.

Carson and the Quest for Color
Download Here

Good lord what a chore.

When a game is supposedly color-themed but decides to pick something as eye-searing as the Yellow rooms, you know you're in trouble.  If you want to deliberately do something eye-searing, never throw it in immediately, you have to ease the player into that kind of thing.  That way, by the time it's hit full-force, they're already trapped!

At its heart, this game was probably trying to teach us something about color theory, but the textboxes end up being such scrambled rubbish as to be incoherent.  I still have no idea what the first puzzle was getting at, but it was broken to the point you could simply walk past it without consequence.  The second seemed to have some major confusion over Cool and Warm colors (or was using some other definition of cool and warm that has nothing to do with color theory?), and the third wasn't even a puzzle.

Now, I don't know much about designing good mazes, but I know a lot about designing bad ones (as Mazes of Persistence would demonstrate), so I felt some misplaced solidarity with the map design here.  Giant, massive, huge mazes with only a few forks at the beginning, so if you're gonna walk down the wrong path, you won't know it for a good long while.  This is not how you construct mazes, unless you're trying to be mean.

I do not understand why our hero alternately inflated and deflated between walking frames.  Is Carson a balloon person?
I did find the museum amusing.  This game should've been more museums and less mazes.
It was pretty hard to distinguish any of the tiles from each other, but I instinctively F11'd right away.

Even after doing so, I still couldn't find the exit right away. At least the map wasn't also massive.

After being unable to read anything, I-I just had to give in.
This was the first of the 8-bit games I played, and unfortunately, I couldn't get into it. I liked the educational spin a lot, actually, and I was tempted to give the author the benefit of the doubt for his effort. As much as I enjoy having fun, I don't mind learning something new along the way. The problem is that education alone doesn't make a game fun (well, duh), and between the awful yellow, the incoherent maze, and the lack of any kind of sound, I just got bored. So, I didn't get very far. I think it may have ruined me for the other contest games, as well, because with the exception of HORSE GAME, I didn't get far on any of them. I lost my heart. 
I didn't understand most of the puzzles and none of them even seemed to work aside the warm and cool one, which is referring not to artistic color theory but scientific color temperature. The next one about subtractive primaries made some sense but the room seemed to be broken. Anyway, this game was mostly broken and even if it wasn't it wouldn't be at all fun or interesting without a much better design. But it's probably entirely useless to talk about, the author appears out of nowhere and dropped this game not to be heard from since. Maybe this is a "joke".

Crystal Chasers
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Mogri seems to have an affinity for puzzle games and boss fights, so I guess it makes sense that he would eventually combine the two. You get to play as a sassy trio of brothers, powered by attitude, despair, and crystals. Your party is bent on destroying everything standing between it and more power-ups.

There are about 4 main dungeons before the final stage and each one presents itself with a neat puzzle. You never actually level up, so each dungeon is supposedly the same difficulty, meaning you can choose the order in which you explore dungeons. The difficulties and lengths of puzzles varies between stages and they are all pretty smooth and functional. However, the Nature Dungeon's rock-hopping animation takes too long with the bros taking turns.

The fights are the more interesting parts of the game. Each time you clear a dungeon and reach its crystal, you gain an additional Job for each character and each Job has 3 abilities of varying effect/practicality. I feel like the jobs could use some serious balancing. Some jobs were simply amazing in versatility in power (BARD), but others only seemed amusing enough to try out once and never again (Alchemist).

Between the characters, YELLOW definitely had the best selection, but BARD just topped everything, so I didn't really get as much play out of the others. RED had a fair selection of job types, but I mostly swapped between a support-role/heavy-hitter (Paladin) to a heavy-hitter/heavy-hitter (Berserker). His other jobs aren't bad selections though. BLUE seemed to have drawn the short straw at every crystal's job distribution. Being a Thief is useful for a few boss fights (Stealing from the Defender every time he transmogrifies potentially leads to a ridiculous stack of Double potions) (Back-stabbing robots). But aside from this, he sees little use outside of tossing an occasional potion. His most versatile job is probably the Druid, which has a nice magic-attack and a bear, but it doesn't match up very well when compared to his bros.

Like the puzzles, each dungeon's boss is also pretty unique (a reminder of Darkmoor Dungeon). However, once you figure out a boss' quirks, the battle drags on for a while longer than I feel that they should have. On a side note, I didn't even know that there was a melting-death animation for enemies until I played this game.

Each dungeon also has a wide array of equipment and I really, really wish the OHRRPGCE had a way of reading an item's description from the equip menu, but oh well.

While this seems to have been one of the lesser plotscript-heavy games Mogri has released lately, that doesn't detract from this game's ability fun in any way.
This was a fun one, it was almost like a compressed Final Fantasy 5.  The world map looked a little lazy, but I'm not gonna hold that against it.

What was everyone's favorite party to use?  I spent most of the game with the Paladin, Thief and Wizard, except for a few battles where I just tested other classes out.  I obviously disagree with your appraisal of the Thief, I found him to be the best physical DPSer, between his Backstab and extra hits.  I actually only used the Paladin for support, mostly, while the Wizard spammed Lightning.

The one time I had trouble in this one is that I mistook the switch in the Water dungeon for the crystal, so I kept going back and trying to guess at how I could possibly reach any of the chests that were left, because none of the jumps seemed to connect.  I felt a little silly after I gave up and found that the switch froze everything over.
All these puzzles in an oldschool game without leveling, I feel like I'm in a puzzle quest. The puzzles are pretty hard and some had me glad I could save anywhere. Maybe I'd have more fun but the main attraction seems to be the classes system. There's some fun battles in this game for sure but there aren't many, the enemies are even on screen to avoid and don't give you anything for fighting them. But again... without battles and the main challenge of this game being puzzles what are the classes for?

Yeah, a lot like Final Fantasy 5 or 3, right up to the whole job Crystal thing.There's also this kind of thing with FF2 going on with the "4th" guy being a bad guy. This all comes off as awkward to me though, it's a very plain game with just enough Final Fantasy to give it personality. If Moogle's idea was to go after Final Fantasy, why not go after it stronger, pointy hats and such?
Well, they do give you money.  Which can be used for potions, which will help you in battles, which...I guess it's kind of a circular argument at this point, isn't it?
I pretty much only found the enemies useful for testing out class skills. Money was pretty much useless after the first dungeon, where you don't have a healer yet.

"The one time I had trouble in this one is that I mistook the switch in the Water dungeon for the crystal"

Totally want to second this. I ended up talking to it twice because I thought I was supposed to pick the crystal up. This in turn turned the ice back into water and I hopped all the way out of the dungeon wondering what went wrong.
Defeating the battles restores half your heatlh anyway, I suppose if we really need the help in Boss Fights, but there's enough curing spells and other measures around. I'm sorry I'm going to have a lot of bias here, there's a lot of the types of decisions I don't like. I never liked "on-screen" enemies you could avoid because it either avoids the danger of fighting or creates the illusion you could avoid fighting. Combining this with no leveling the game effectively really doesn't want you to fight normal battle at all.
Honestly, I kind of prefer the illusion over random battles.  I have never liked those.
I've had trouble getting into Moogle's games lately. I love the work he puts into them. I especially love how polished they often seem when they're released, given the extensive plotscripting that goes into them. But ever since Darkmoor Dungeon, I've felt slightly detached from his games, and Crystal Chasers continues the trend. I like how the player can start wherever he wants, and then travel through a puzzle-like dungeon until he finds the crystal. And I think the presentation is excellent, especially with the multiple puzzle styles and class choices for the characters. But the story doesn't really grab me, so I don't really know why I should connect with these people.
Unfortunately, my detachment has left me with little to say about it. I think it looks and plays nice, though I could do without the unescapable battles. Maybe without the battles I'd have more fun with it. Hard to say, really. On the surface, once could call it the perfect game with its gameplay variety. But critics said the same thing about Spore, and that was, well, lacking. I think, at the end of the day, the problem is that I prefer that a game excels at one thing, rather than give me a sampler platter of many things. Crystal Chasers has too many good ideas, and that prevents any of them from shining.

Dragon Bustier
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So let's talk about Dragon Bustier for a bit, a game Shizuma made in the style of the old NES RPGs like Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy. I've heard from a lot of people, a lot of mixed ideas about this game. Some people hated it because all it is is essentially a level grinding game, other people loved it for that reason alone. I think the game has a lot of strong points. Granted, the version I played was a little buggy in several ways. The 4th character didn't join the party, he just kinda said his bit then vanished, doors didn't work properly in the dungeon. For all of it's bugs, it could lose points, yes, however, I think there's enough positive things here to merit some decent discussion. I mean, look at the graphics, they're some of the best in the history of the 8-Bit Contest's history. So let's get this show on the roll.
Agreed that Dragon Bustier looks fantastic (Also took more time than it should have for the title screen and name to set in on me, "Ohh Bustier, not Buster!") However, I've never been too fond of the NES Final Fantasy/Dragon Warrior styles, so I guess the nostalgia factor for these kinds of games just flies over my head here.

I downloaded this on its first release. After seeing that all the NPC's in the first place (castle?) said the same thing, I really felt like this was just a newbie game dressed up all pretty-like. I walked into one of the many shops and was able to buy three items before running out of money (Staff, Spell, Spell?). Almost missed recruiting a party member before going into the dungeon (Wish I had waited until I had recruited this guy (Walace?) until I bought anything).

Walked into the first dungeon and got so bored of the first fight that I just kind of stopped (Also, I read on the release thread that the game was pretty buggy).
Yes, the aesthetic was very nice and everything.  I get what this game was going for on paper and it does it very well.  This is a very accurate throwback to an 8-bit RPG, but its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness, because it's about as dull as your generic 8-bit RPG.  I'd explored the town and played around a bit in the dungeon before deciding that while this game has an audience, it certainly doesn't include me.
As the guy who made the game, I'd like people to know by Sunday I fixed the bugs and added different dialogues for every person. I suppose I can't get everybody to like this game, but if their problem was with these bugs or incomplete feeling, those aspects are fixed now among other things and you should download the latest version for sure. It's a much cleaner game, not perfect but none of those rushed mistakes from the first release.

And of course, I'm not apologizing for making a DQ/FF style of game. Sometimes I have trouble understanding the OHR community and what it wants, people who don't like old things, or people who just don't even like RPGs. Take one look in CUSTOM and it's obvious to me what this engine is about.
I really didn't get into this, at all. Graphically, it was nice and old school. Shizuma excels at that sort of thing. But the townies were less than intriguing, the battles were essentially basic, and it just seemed like Shizuma jumped into the contest at the last minute (which I think he said he kinda did). I really don't have anything else to say about it. It was not exciting to me in the slightest. I suppose the only things I liked, besides the graphics, were the attempt to make an RPG for the contest and the ability to build my party from a scavenger hunt. The latter, I would say, was its strongest appeal to me. Other than that, I'll probably forget about it before 2010 ends. In Shizuma's defense, I didn't care much for the RPGs of the '80s, either.

Horse Game
Download Here

When a trippy title screen flashes the image of a horse, and some disembodied voice announces with bravado "HORSE GAME!," we know that we're in for something special, or disturbing.
The game begins with a deceptive notion of choice, meaning that the player thinks he can pick one of five characters to take through this surreal German game show called HORSE GAME. But he is quickly lassoed into choosing Mr. Pepper, and he must obey, or else the disembodied voice not only kicks him out of the game, but doesn't even bother letting him restart from the title screen. The whole program just dies, and I think that's what convinced me that this game found the happy balance between special and insane.
It also tricks the player into thinking it's a puzzle game, where the horse must be found, and that it can be found behind a locked door somewhere in the stage. But then in some cases, the voice flat out tells you where to find the horse. So, you obey the voice, find the horse, and move on to the next level.
And yet, sometimes the solution isn't so simple. Take the Yo Ghost stage for example. The voice tells you to get the horse on the other side of the screen, but you must be careful for the Yo Ghost is hungry and wants to eat you. Despite the parallels that the game now takes with the Running Man, the solution seems like it should be simple when one considers that releasing the gate should ideally buy the player enough time to run around the side wall and sneak in through the back and nab the horse while the Yo Ghost is still in pursuit. What the player doesn't count on initially is that the Yo Ghost is not only hungry, but an Olympic sprinter, and that it can dash around that hall and eat you before you ever have a chance to glimpse the horse, much less pet it. So, what's the player to do? Well, now he has to figure out a puzzle. Tricky.
Most of the stages really are simple, though. Perhaps the notoriously tricky one is that door level, which not only freezes the game if you fail, but gives you an ambiguous solution, even with the voice's "The Red One, Choose the Red One," when it tells you which door to check and then all the doors change colors. But when you see that the walls and the borders change colors, too, you almost feel like you just need to wait for everything to turn red. And when you consider that anything can become red, it makes you wonder if anything is as simple as obeying a voice.
But by the time you reach the end, you're so used to just doing whatever the voice tells you to do that you hardly think twice when you make your final (potentially wasteful) decision and end up winning the game.
So what does HORSE GAME teach us? It teaches us that submission works.
It also has one of the best disembodied voice characters ever captured in a game. It reminded me of Mike Myers's old SNL character Dieter, the host of that surreal German dance party show. I think the game is replayable simply to hear all 60 taunts.
Okay, that about covers my viewpoint. What can you add?
Horse Game certainly has charm, I won't doubt that. From beginning to end, it certainly does something bizarre. And I agree with Pepsi, the key to victory is total submission.

I found all of the puzzles to be very easy, except for the door one. I got really frustrated and wound up having to try every door until I randomly got it right. The sidescrolling one was the best I think, because if you fell down, well, you died. Not sure how it's coded, but I mean, that's pretty good.

It was frustrating having to start over because the narrator kept punishing the player by locking him into his bad decisions, and I think that's one of the things I didn't like about the game. It's certainly different in a lot of ways, good and bad I think.

The premise alone was pretty funny. I would have liked more random horse jokes from the narrator, personally.
I had played Carson and the Quest for Color before playing this and found Horse Game's first stage (Endless Surlaw) to be eerily similar in content. In fact, I had to wonder if the user 'Puzzle' was somehow linked to Surlaw for a moment (Caron's Quest for Color -- Gato Sucio: The Quest for Color).

This game had plenty of quirks outside of its wonderful narration and puzzles as well, like how all of the potential characters come back to haunt you or how the first stage's map looks like a dude riding a horse (Almost?).

There's also the 'Neigh' command, among other great things. The 'CONGRATULATIONS!!' for winning a stage also taught me to believe that complete servitude may lead you to success, but you'll develop epilepsy along the way.

Unlike other puzzle games, the gimmicks of this game know when to stop before they get stale. Once you figure out a trick, you can move onto the next stage to work on another.

Great opening sequence, by the way. I really wanted to be Muscle Comrade Zangief though :c
Another thing I thought of after I had submitted this summary was that by "obeying" the narrator, he essentially "trained" you to do his bidding.
Sounds a bit like what a horse trainer does, right?
The illusion of choice is in Horse Game sure, but it's fully conscious of that. Disobeying the narrator was the absolute first thing I did. So what will he do if I pick Zangief? After all that's the character I wanted. So I went for it and, well the reaction to doing so is hilarious. Yes, I am kicked out of the game but I'm pretty satisfied with myself, and I got to see more of the game. I will have to go for Pepper now, sure, but winning is only another branch of what I want to do.

Because of the Voice acting, it's really different from anything I had played before. Surlaw is "watching you" in this one. It's more than your typical joke game for sure. Throughout the game, you could simply do whatever you want because of how intentional the game is designed to know you aren't following directions. It's easy enough to do so but it's so short it's a waste to not see what happens when you don't. In summary it was cool how the game had everything thought out, it's a very "complete" work.

I don't think the puzzles were bad at all, they were after all "puzzles". I lost 3 times or so, I think all on the Ghost stage. But there's the idea of the puzzles, how they are really different and they have personality, not simply here's some bricks and move them around to open a door. No sirs, we are finding HORSES and it's a big deal! It could be a really amazing game with a lot more stages added in. Video games and puzzles are a great combination if the game has a fun idea about how you'll do them. Horse Game does that.
I'm trying to think of something that hasn't already been touched on!

I loved this game.  I think it was the general spectacle to it, especially with the ambient noises.  It was like a weird foreign game show with an endearing jerk for a host.
Also, the "Neigh" button!  Every game should have a "Neigh" button.  It's a very simple yet profound pleasure, like the bicycle bell in Earthbound.
Well, the presentation is really off the chain here and more highly produced than anything OHR I've ever played. We've hardly seen anything use all these sound functions that have been sitting around to be used for so long, and Horse Game comes along and uses and abuses them to the fullest extent. Horse Game is actually something everybody should be taking note of, it shows what we can all be potentially doing in terms of presentation, it sets a high bar but should challenge other people to try something like this or integrate it into their design.
I understand that this game is the first to really implement sound effects, but I mean, all it did was just taunt the player and randomly play sound effects in the background. I'm not entirely sure I agree with you on this man. Sure it was neat and gimmicky, but innovative? Presentation is decent, I mean, it's some 8-bit graphics and a truck load of sound effects. It's fun for a quick play through, but I would hate to see a ton of duplicate Horse Games.
The idea isn't to create duplicates of Horse Game, actually I'd rather people don't try that as nobody else here is Surlaw and his sense of humor is fairly unique. What I'm talking about is Horse Game as a design concept, the clean implementation of sound effects and the style of presentation, as in we can just jam these things full of way more content like this game. It could be another funny game, or a really serious game. I see infinite possibilities stemming from this one.
I think the deal is more about putting thought about sound design AT ALL into your game.  Not necessarily the exact same way HORSE GAME did it, but as an example that there's more to things than just some music and every now and again a sound effect.
Paul Harrington:
I'm going to jump in just to say that Horse Game was not the first OHR game to implement sound effects. Far from it. It's one of the only games to incorporate a fully voiced script, which is an essential part of the experience. The taunts in Horse Game are a part of the gameplay. Bloodlust was the first OHR game to make extensive use of sound to enhance the game.
Okay, I haven't played that so I wouldn't have known.  On second thought, sound design was a pretty big part of Sleepover, too.
I didn't get that from the Shizuma's message, heh. But it does make sense. I think House Heroes was the first to really use voice acting (how ironic that when I complained about how I had to set that up, that James put the "put sound" in sound effect thing, haha), specifically voice acting. Horse Game comes along and makes it the primary gimmick. I like the idea of using more voice acting, it has made some professional games significantly better. It would work perfectly implemented into an RPG. I'm with you guys now that I understand, I would like to see more OHR games to utilize some of it's newer features.
I feel compelled to remind everyone that the ability to add sound effects and voice acting has been around since '06 or '07 and I'm sure some people have been tinkering with it since, whether their games have been released or not. The first sound effect I ever used/made was a series of voice clips for my intro, and that was in the summer of '08. And I doubt highly that that was the first instance of sound or voice acting in an OHR game, even then. I recall OHR House 3 having that voice acted emo song in Week 2, and I think that was in early '08. Who can say that that was even the first instance?
I think the argument isn't about firsts. It's about bests. HORSE GAME has the best use voice acting in a released game so far, as each line is great. House Heroes had some good voice acting, too, but not all of it was good. And it certainly wasn't persistent. HORSE GAME never let up, and it was just good. I can't, however, think of a game that had the ability to make a sound effect on command before this, though for some reason I feel like the Village People game should've had it. But yeah, I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, but sound effects have been available far too long to claim that any game in this contest was a first to use them extensively in any format.
Yeah, if you really want to argue firsts on voice acting, Mazes of Persistence had a pretty deliberate sound design (though perhaps with a few kinks), and all the sound effects were made with a microphone!  Voice acting! No, guys, none of these other examples come close to the level of sound design we're talking about here Horse Game, save Sleepover and perhaps Bloodlust.