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We’ve all had the wonderful experience of pounding our heads against the wall because of the iPhone app we’re playing. We just can’t seem to kill the last pig, feed the monster his candy, or stop an onslaught of brutal enemies with our puny towers. The latest offering of addicting, head pounding games that I’ve picked up is called ‘Monster Blast’ a new app from PopLobby. There is something subtly different about this game however, it was built in Flash.

The thing that surprised me most was that if I hadn’t been told it was a Flash game, I never would have known. Unlike some of the early Flash-to-iPhone ports, this app performed really well for a game that includes physics, lots of moving objects, and a layered moving background. So how did this game make it from the Flash platform to the iPhone?

Being able to publish a Flash game for the iPhone is nothing ground breakingly new. When Adobe released Flash CS5, the ability to package for iPhone was included in the software. About a week before it was released, however, Apple changed the App Store developer license so that no 3rd party publishing tools could create apps for the App Store. Round house kick to the face, Adobe. Then about 6 months later, Apple pulled a “Just kidding!” and apps from 3rd party tools could hit the shelves again. Apparently, since that initial release, Adobe has been making some major improvements to their iPhone packager. It appears that apps built with their software can now compete with those built in native Objective-C.

I still wanted to know why someone would choose Flash as a publishing platform for an Apple product so I contacted the PopLobby developers. They started by musing that there was something strangely satisfying about building the app in Windows, packaging it with Adobe, and seeing it run on an Apple device. Seriously though, they did have some valid points. While they acknowledged that the performance wasn’t as good as a native app, they said building the game with Flash gave them the ability to quickly distribute it internally for testing – no iPhone needed. In addition, they were able to quickly build a Flash based WYSIWYG level builder to help with the development. Finally, since they are all ActionScript 3.0 (Flash’s scripting language) developers they didn’t have to learn anything new. As long as they stuck to mobile best practices and relentlessly tested and retested the game, in the end Monster Blast turned out better than they had hoped.

So, while your mobile web browser won’t be displaying Flash content any time soon—or ever most likely, Flash has found a way to run on the iPhone and does so pretty well. As long as solid games like Monster Blast keep popping up, I don’t care what they are built in as long as it gives me a brilliantly frustrating way to pass some time on a long flight, standing in line, or taking care of some “business” In the potty.

Dustin Christensen is the Director of Course Development for Enspark. He is most likely going to upgrade to the iPhone 4s.
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