Flixel Pixel Perfect Collisions

Posted on Sun 31 January 2010 in Development

I haven't found a decent source of information about this on the interwebs so I thought I'd share my findings. Flixel doesn't have any built in pixel perfect collision support, it just assumes that you are using square (or at least rectangle) sprites and don't use any rotation. Well, that's not entirely a real world assumption so some of us will have to dig around and implement something ourselves. Hence, the below class. The class I developed is a simple override of the base FlxSprite class with some modifications to its collision detection system. It takes advantage of the fact that each sprite has its own set of BitmapData in its own coordinate space, which the framework uses to blit to the main screen BitmapData. BitmapData objects in Flash provide us with a native implementation (in the Player AFAIK) of per pixel collision detection, using the hitTest method. The hitTest method takes 5 parameters, but we only really care about the first 4. The first parameter we pass it defines where the calling BitmapData object is in screen space, i.e. the sprite's (x,y) coordinates. We then pass it a threshold alpha value, 0 being transparent and 255 being opaque. If you want semi-transparent regions of your sprite to collide then set this to something lower than 255 (0xFF is the hexadecimal representation of decimal 255). The third parameter is the colliding sprite's BitmapData object. And the fourth is the colliding sprite's (x,y) coordinates in screen space. I have abstracted this into the class's structure, so the overridden functions handle everything. You can use another alpha threshold by setting the sprite's alphaThreshold value to something valid, as explained above. You can also disable this pixel perfect collision detection method per technique by either setting doPerfectCollide or doPerfectOverlap to false. Because there are two methods Flixel uses to detect collisions, the class implements enhanced versions of both, and allows you to disable either independently. Note that, in order for the collision detection to be pixel perfect, either a) both colliding objects must subclass PPlxSprite or b) the sprite calling overlaps or collide must sublcass PPlxSprite and the colliding sprite must have a single frame. This is due to fact that the original FlxSprite class does not expose the _framePixels BitmapData object which is needed to collide the objects with the frame that is currently displayed. When a FlxSprite is collided with a PPlxSprite and the perfect collision is enabled, the exposed _pixels BitmapData is used, which contains the entire sprite sheet, so collisions are detected against all frames, not just the frame displayed. However, changing existing sprite's to use this class is easy enough so as not to cause problems. Note also that we only call the hitTest method when we know there is already a bounding box collision, so as not to waste CPU cycles. The native hitTest method is fast but probably not fast enough to call every frame, which would be wasteful in any case. Below is the PPlxSprite class which override the collision methods to provide pixel perfect collisions.

import flash.display.BitmapData;
import flash.geom.Point;

import org.flixel.FlxCore;
import org.flixel.FlxSprite;

public class PPlxSprite extends FlxSprite {

    public var alphaThreshold:uint = 0xFF;
    public var doPerfectOverlap:Boolean = true;
    public var doPerfectCollide:Boolean = true;

    protected var _corePos:Point = new Point();
    protected var _thisPos:Point = new Point();

    public function PPlxSprite(X:int=0, Y:int=0, SimpleGraphic:Class=null) {
        super(X, Y, SimpleGraphic);

    public function get framePixels():BitmapData { return this._framePixels; }

    override public function overlaps(Core:FlxCore):Boolean {
        var doesOverlap:Boolean = super.overlaps(Core);
        if (doesOverlap && this.doPerfectOverlap && Core is FlxSprite) {
            doesOverlap = this.perfectCollision(FlxSprite(Core));
        return doesOverlap;

    public function perfectCollision(Sprite:FlxSprite):Boolean {
        this._corePos = Sprite.getScreenXY(this._corePos);
        this._thisPos = this.getScreenXY(this._thisPos);

        var corePixels:BitmapData;
        if (Sprite is PPlxSprite) {
            corePixels = PPlxSprite(Sprite).framePixels;
        } else {
            // i guess other standard FlxSprites are boned if they are animted
            corePixels = Sprite.pixels;

        return this._framePixels.hitTest(this._thisPos, this.alphaThreshold, corePixels, this._corePos);

    override public function hitWall(Contact:FlxCore=null):Boolean { return this.hitSomething(Contact); }
    override public function hitFloor(Contact:FlxCore=null):Boolean { return this.hitSomething(Contact); }
    override public function hitCeiling(Contact:FlxCore=null):Boolean { return this.hitSomething(Contact); }

    public function hitSomething(Contact:FlxCore):Boolean {
        var didHit:Boolean = true;
        if (this.doPerfectCollide && Contact is FlxSprite) {
            didHit = this.perfectCollision(FlxSprite(Contact));

        return didHit;

Here I have overriden the core FlxSprite methods that are responsible for collision detection, those methods being overlaps and the hit family of methods. Overlaps gets called when you explicitly issue a sprite.overlaps(otherSprite); This is a simple override that adds functionality to the super overlaps method, namely, calling the pixel perfect detection method and returning its results. The hit family of methods are called after calling the collide family of methods, including collideArray and the like. The collide methods, when they have detecting a bounding box collision, call the hit family of methods, depending on the location of the collision, which return a boolean. If the called hit method implemented by the sprite returns false, the collide method aborts and reports that it didn't collide after all. This is the behavior on which the above hit methods rely, and return false when it detects that while a bounding box collision may have occurred, the pixels in either sprite have not collided. A short usage class follows.

public class SomeSprite extends PPlxSprite {

    // Embed sprite image.

    public function SomeSprite(X:Number, Y:Number):void {
        super(X, Y);
        // Load sprite image, and other sprite stuff

    override public function hitWall(Contact:FlxCore):Boolean {
        if (super.hitWall(Contact)) {
            return true;
        return false;

Here, all we do is simply extend the PPlxSprite class from above, and do what we normally do for sprites. We also decide to do something special when a character hits a wall, namely, get hut. To do this we override the hitWall method, call the super hitWall (which would be the PPlxSprite hitWall) method, and depending on its return value, we either get hurt or do nothing. We don't need to do anything special for calling the overlaps method, as this will simply call PPlxSprite overlaps method. So, hopefully this is helpful for someone looking to do this, or at least someone can find the ideas listed here useful. Let me know if you used it and if you find any bugs, improvements, or have any other suggestions.