Book Information
Title: Macromedia Flash 5 ActionScript For Fun & Games
Author: Gary Rosenzweig
Published by: QUE
RRP: USD $45.00
Format: Mass-market paperback
CD: No, Web instead (see below).
User Level: Intermediate - Advanced
Review By: Jesse Stratford (ActionScripts.org)

At a glance: 8/10

A very good book for Intermediate level users with an existing grasp of basic ActionScripting. Fairly specific to game development.

Review:

Unlike most Flash books, Flash 5 ActionScript For Fun & Games is aimed at Intermediate - Advanced level users and therefore doesn't spend much time examining the basic elements of ActionScript. Indeed Variables, Arrays, Conditionals, Loops and more are all covered in about 20 pages but personally I liked that. This book is quick to get down to the nitty gritty of actual game programming and doesn't waste time dealing with the stuff an Intermediate level user should know already. Having said that, I should point out that the introductory information given about variables and the like is of good quality - it just might be a bit too brief for a Beginner (remember that the book isn't targeted at Beginners though). The blurb states that "The lessons teach all the basics of ActionScript programming…" which I would be inclined to disagree with slightly, but I guess each person's perception of 'basic' is different.

No CD is provided with the book, instead users can access a Web site and download the functional examples and other goodies (which are abundant throughout the text) in source form. You can decide whether that's a good or a bad thing, I guess it comes down to personal opinion - I like it as I have too many CDs already and I don't see the point in wasting the silicon since Flash files are so tiny.
The book is very hands-on, that is to say, it's based primarily on setting tasks and then going through a step-wise development process. Tasks are defined clearly at the outset and the games themselves are very professionally constructed. This rings true throughout the book - unlike all the free sample movies you could download off the web, Gary's open source focus on the intricacies which will separate a standard developer from a true professional. For example, in the falling apples game the apples must hit the top of the basket, not the sides or the bottom, so hitTest() is not used. It is this sort of extra effort that will set you apart from your rivals if you plan to develop games commercially.
The book also encourages a very extensible form of programming; vis, games are constructed in such a manner that a simple adaptation of one or two lines of code will result in increased difficulty, more levels, etc. Functions are clearly defined and quite well explained and commented - again I am reading this in the mindset of a competent Intermediate Flash user.
The range of game styles covered is also quit impressive. The book's cover boasts: "Casino and card games, arcade games, brain teasers, hunt and click games, toys and gadgets, trivia and word games, ball and paddle games, picture puzzles…" and on average there are about 3 examples of each, with full source code provided and good documentation.
Ultimately, I really liked this book. Being a game designer myself (in my spare time, if I ever have any), Gary's methods impressed me and showed that he is quite a master of his art. If you're planning of making games, I would recommend this book without hesitation and I also see that this book could be quite beneficial as a general ActionScript learning tool. I like the fox mascot too.