Super Hero Fight Club: Reloaded knows exactly what it is. With tongue ready to burst from cheek, it happily pastiches all manner of popular characters from games, TV and film while slathering it all in enough neon and ’80s-style synth to make Nicolas Winding Refn green with envy. But beneath the satirical exterior lies a solo and multiplayer that’s far more substantial than its jokey wrapping suggests.

Free of any need for story or unnecessary narrative, the premise is simple. A roster of 17 fighters will face off on a pixel art 2D plane. To win, you need to strike your opponent or claim victory when they stray into one of the many hazards affixed to its 61 single-screen maps. Sounds easy, right? Well, your chosen character is suspended in the air, so you’ll need to use momentum and inertia to dodge attacks and line yourself up for that killing blow.

It’s reminiscent of old-school arcade romps such as Joust or more recent takes on the formula – such as 2014’s equally neon-heavy Starwhal – but with significantly more variety when it comes to the dangers you’ll be evading and the characters you can deploy. All styled off familiar franchises (with presumably enough differences to avoid any legal phone calls), some – such as the Star Wars-style Rid-Li and Lil Wan – have lightsabers that extend out, making them ideal for winning one-on-one jousts.

But then there’s Anonymous and El Diablo, who boast a mouse and spike ball respectively, which they swing around them as they move. It’s a much larger weapon, but it’s cumbersome and takes a lot of practice to wield. There are projectiles too, with Green Hawk, Ratman and Exterminator all using long-ranged warfare. Again, these are incredibly versatile in the right hands, but those hands will have to learn to dash, turn and fire to really get the most out of this seemingly easy-to-handle style of play.

Originally designed for smartphones, Incuvo’s 2D battler immediately feels at home on a Joy-Con. Built to support up to four-player local play (as well as missions and arcade ladders in single-player), zooming around the screen still takes some getting used to but you’ve mastered the balance of flying and dashing, you’ll soon be using your momentum to run your opponents through with majestic grace. While there is support for solo play, Super Hero Fight Club: Reloaded is at its absolute best when played in local multiplayer (although there isn’t any form of online matchmaking).

With up to three other players, matches turn into all-out hilarious brawls as everyone fights to control their fighter, desperately dodging to avoid flying into a set of flamethrowers or a buzzsaw. The sheer number of maps and variant layouts ensure that even the most experienced of player can be undone in the heat of battle. Learning to master flight, dashing and the various power-ups you can collect (which do everything from adding armour to firing off projectiles at random intervals) is a challenge in itself. You can play locally in both free-for-all Deathmatch as well as the brilliantly tactical Team Deathmatch.

If you’re looking to play on your own, Super Hero Fight Club: Reloaded also supports single-player sessions. The Missions mode includes 45 different scenarios designed to test each of its 17 characters and serves as a long-form tutorial on just how to best use Green Hawk’s arrows or Ratman’s ratarangs. The AI is relentless and this mode serves as an ideal crucible for learning the game’s often unwieldy controls. You can also play through Arcade mode on your own, with a ladder full of opponents to defeat and an extra character to unlock.

Survival mode is by far the toughest offering in the package, requiring you to fight off a wave of AI opponents. Considering it often takes one to two hits to lose a round, every encounter becomes a tense showdown where the slightest misjudgement of momentum and positioning can see you skewered in the flank and your run brought to an embarrassing end. While you can get away with playing any solo sessions in handheld mode, player characters are so small you can only really play multiplayer with the larger screen real estate of a TV in docked mode.

Conclusion

With its pop-culture pastiche, serious love for ’80s synth and usual passion for jousting, Super Hero Fight Club: Reloaded is certainly one of Nintendo Switch’s most unusual multiplayer offerings. While it’s not the most original concept, it does get extra points for the clever use of power-ups and hazards, making it a couch-play experience that will frustrate you and make you punch the air in triumph all at once.