How to Play Xenowerk Like an Expert Mutant Hunter

Some 99-cent mobile games are worth digging into.

The mutant-blasting twin-stick shooter Xenowerk has been downloaded on the Google Play Store over a million times, and it's an Editor's Choice pick on the Apple App Store. With the reputation that 99-cent mobile games have, we wouldn't blame you if you haven't given it a shot. But we think you'd be missing out -- the in-app purchases aren't really necessary to enjoy Xenowerk, it looks great, and it's great at killing time or relieving some stress. Here's how to squeeze the most out of this game and avoid some early mistakes.

How twin-stick shooting works on a mobile device

In this style of game, there are usually two large circles on the screen, one on the lower left and one on the lower right. The left hand controls your movement, and the right controls your direction of fire. In Xenowerk, touching the right "stick" will point your weapon and pull its trigger at the same time. So you don't need to worry about juggling another button that makes you shoot. In this game, you can also move and shoot at the same time, including running backwards. It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with running in one direction and shooting in another, before you get too deep into the game.

As with most games of this type, you have bottomless ammo, and you don't even have to reload. Instead, your main weapon has a temperature gauge. If you hold down the trigger for too long, your weapon can overheat and take several seconds to cool down enough to fire again.

Fighting effectively in Xenowerk

This game puts you in a mostly top-down perspective, so you can't see too far ahead. However, you have a radar with a map overlay in the upper right. (You can get a better view of the map by tapping on the pause button.) On this radar, the mutants will show up as red dots. Since your weapons also have laser sights, you can use the radar to line up your shot and open fire before an mutant has appeared onscreen. In fact, firing a few warning shots will draw them out of cover and make them rush you. Mutants who are onscreen but behind cover will have yellow silhouettes.

Overall, it's pretty difficult for them to hide from you. However, some of them compensate for this by being able to close the distance quickly, while others try to manage by having a lot of hit points or a long-range attack. So it's not an easy-mode shooting gallery. If you're not paying close attention, you can still get swarmed. There's also a button right above the movement stick that looks like a video camera. Tapping on this will reset your view, so that it's behind your character. Moving her around will also reset it gradually.

You'll also have two weapons you can swap between with a tap, starting with an assault rifle and a shotgun. As you might expect, the shotgun is powerful up close but weak at a distance, while the rifle is weaker but accurate and long-ranged. So the assault rifle fares much better with hitting offscreen enemies, but the shotty makes quick work of something that's gotten inside your personal space bubble. As you collect coins, you'll be able to unlock new weapons that have new behaviors.

If you shoot several mutants in a short amount of time, or you take down a big one, this will fill up a special ability meter. At first, you'll have only one ability that will restore all your hit points. The more you fill up the meter, the more abilities you can access, with a maximum of five.

Accessing other sections of the game

You'll also notice three radioactivity icons at the top of the screen. These will fill up with green ooze as you kill the mutants on a given level, and you need to clear the whole area to fill them completely. It's important to do so, because the radiation icons are also currency. You need them to unlock the fancier armor and the later levels. If you do well in one section, the next section can unlock early, which can help prevent a given environment from getting stale.

Thankfully, the levels are not particularly large -- it should take five minutes or less to complete one -- and you can replay a level as many times as you like. There are 80 levels overall, for a maximum of 240 radiation points.

Managing your character and gear

You'll occasionally see blue coins drop from downed enemies, especially the bigger ones. When you pick these up, they will upgrade your currently equipped weapon with increased damage. Each weapon can be upgraded multiple times -- just make sure to equip the weapon you want to upgrade before picking up this coin.

About Tom McNamara

Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at