I don’t know that I’d call Growl a good game, but man is it great.
Originally released into arcades in 1990 courtesy of Taito, a friend and I happened upon it last weekend while dabbling with AtGames’ Legends Gamer Pro. A classic beat ‘em up with middling gameplay, Growl would fit right in amongst a police lineup (or an identity parade, as I just learned it was called across the pond) of contemporaries. Nonetheless, we plowed through it in about a half-hour, won over by the numerous absurdities.
To begin with, it seemed our choice of character was limited to an Indiana Jones lookalike, or a wannabe “Macho Man” Randy Savage. With a premise of stopping wild animal poachers in Africa, this was quite a team! Following a brief introduction, our characters were ambushed by a pair of evil poachers who uttered “drop dead you scum” with the comedic conviction of a bad guy from a 1980s Saturday morning cartoon. When these half-hearted quips were directed at the heroes, they’d often deliver barely audible, milquetoast rebuttals with a bored carelessness.
Within the scattered debris of the game’s bar starting point, we found rocket launchers, inconspicuously stored in wooden crates. Heavy machine guns were another high powered weapon that seemed overkill for a genre that typically accentuated fisticuffs with knives and steel bars, although these were also present. Nonetheless, weapons broke up the tedium of just mashing the attack button. When pressed with the jump button, our characters would perform an enemy clearing special attack, although successfully executing this move was inconsistent.
Frequently, an impressive number of enemies – perhaps two dozen – would flood the screen. We fought a mixture of sharp dressed, short skirted women, turbaned men, and large boulder lifting, fast-charging bruisers. The feats the enemies, and our characters, performed were ludicrous but the final boss took the cake. After clobbering the rocket launcher equipped, hunchbacked, magician claw clown, his corpse shuffled to the center of the screen and out popped a Space Harrier looking worm from his back. In a twist we never could’ve guessed, the ring of evil poachers had been led by some alien creature.
Like I said at the start, I wouldn’t consider Growl particularly good, but it sure is a great game to play with someone else. Its beat ‘em up gameplay was basic, but we felt effective; the myriad henchmen we faced dropped after a reasonable number of punches and it wasn’t hard to make contact with them. Our offensive abilities were aided by powerful weapons, and occasionally rescued animals. These furry friends offered some of the funniest moments while simultaneously playing up the game’s message of conservation. With something to laugh at every couple of minutes, it was a great way to spend a half-hour.
For your viewing pleasure, the thirteen second that follows in this clip starting around 12:43 is probably the best summation of this game’s appeal.