Election Year Knockout is a boxing game in the style of the Punch-Out!! series parodying American politics. Set in an alternate reality where literally everything is solved in the boxing ring, even presidential elections, an emerging third-party candidate (controlled by the player) campaigns around the United States of America to battle prominent personalities from the two existing political parties and ascend to the presidency.
Assuming the part of an unnamed candidate, the player controls the action from over the shoulder. Each opponent is a puzzle box that must be unraveled using a limited move set of four punches, two dodges, a block, and a devastating haymaker attack. In doing so, the player must manage a collection of resources. Throwing punches uses stamina, but also fills a power meter. Once the power meter is full, it can be consumed to throw the haymaker.
Resource management is a game of risk and reward, and differs this game from its source of inspiration. Stamina quickly regenerates while the candidate is idling. Stamina also refills instantly when the haymaker hits its mark. If stamina depletes entirely, the candidate becomes winded and is only able to block. Blocking immediately returns the candidate to the fight and fills the stamina meter, but continued blocking consumes a small amount of power meter each time.
Both the player and the opponent have a health meter that, when drained, results in a knockdown. If a contestant cannot get back up, or if a contestant suffers three knockdowns in a single round, the match is over and a winner is declared.
Rounds are short and punctuated by a brief rest. During this time the candidate's coach, Maverick, opines with useful advice for taking down each opponent.
Advanced players learn how to successfully trade stamina for power before unleashing their most powerful attack when their opponent's guard is down. A well-timed haymaker, and even certain counter attack opportunities, will throw the opponent into a stagger. Staggered opponents can be hit multiple times at little stamina cost before they "blow out" beyond the candidate's reach and return to the fight.
Defensively, dodging an attack costs nothing (though stamina regeneration pauses) and can allow for a follow-up punch to land before the opponent can react. Blocking an attack causes no damage to the candidate, and will also put the player at a massive timing advantage. A perfectly timed block will additionally fill a large portion of the power meter.
Each opponent has a unique set of skills with which to challenge the candidate. The real challenge of each match is to discover how to overcome the opponent's defenses or exploit a weakness. Some like to brawl, while others are very defensive. All of them have at least one surprise special attack that must be avoided or punished.
Each opponent also has multiple challenges for the player to complete, ranging from routing them quickly to pulling off flashy, difficult counters and clever strategies. If the player completes all of an opponent's challenges, a harder version of that opponent is unlocked. These "EX" or "Presidential" fights come with all new gameplay, new moves to overcome, new strategies to discover, and new challenges to complete.
Election Year Knockout is designed for touch screens, but can also be played with a controller.
When using touch controls, tapping any quadrant of the screen throws a punch to that corner. Tapping high throws a jab, and tapping low throws a hook. Holding two thumbs, one on each side of the screen, holds up a block. Swiping up throws a haymaker, and swiping left or right triggers a dodge. Swiping down will also dodge to whichever side of the screen was swiped. The direction of each punch and dodge input can be very important against certain opponents.
On controller, the left and bottom face buttons throw left and right hooks. The joystick or d-pad can be used to dodge left and right. Pressing down or the right face button holds a block. Holding up modifies the punch buttons to throw jabs. The top face button throws a haymaker. High and low punches may also be controlled by the buttons and triggers, if the controller has them.
Campaign mode is the primary single player game mode of Election Year Knockout. While campaigning, the player travels to different regions of the United States to gain electoral votes, but through boxing. Each region is governed by an entrenches politician from one side of the aisle or another, and winning that region secures it for the player. With each new region won, the player may add another descriptor to the candidate's party name, ultimately creating a long and absurd moniker that a national news host must dutifully announce. Once every region is secured, the player may challenge the White House to become the president.
In Challenge mode, the player may quickly select through any opponent already cleared and review the list of challenges for that opponent. Opponents may still be re-fought from the Campaign map screen.