September 13, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
8pen never caught on as an alternative Android keyboard. The gesture-based keyboard market was rich with alternatives like Swype and SlideIt, all of which were much easier to use than the gestures required for text entry in 8pen. The app disappeared before popping back up last week as a $1.37 app.
Trying to encourage adoption the second time around, 8pen has found a backdoor by turning the learning process of using the keyboard into a game. 8pen Wordcup is a free game that turns the challenge of learning 8pen into something that you might actually enjoy. A letter appears on-screen and users must perform the gesture associated with that letter before it flies to the top of the screen. The player gets points for all the letters completed, and letting a letter reach the top of the screen means failing that level.
Surprisingly, the game is actually kind of interesting because 8pen feels so foreign when first typing. There are 8 themed sections with 12 levels for each section, with each level increasing the number of letters – and eventually words – shown. As you take on this new-age Simon game of following instructions, you suddenly start remembering how letters are formed and become enamored in beating the challenge. By the time you complete the game, 8pen is not as foreign as it once was. And – surprise, surprise – there’s a link encouraging users to purchase 8pen Keyboard.
That doesn’t mean it’s as useful or practical. I thought the original incarnation of 8pen keyboard was a terrible idea because it made typing more difficult. The new version appears to make more sense to me thanks to 8pen Wordcup, but I’d still rather stick to the default keyboard or Swype when typing normally. Try out the game and see if this truly is a better typing experience. Even if you aren’t tempted to try out the 8pen keyboard, Wordcup will be a worthy distraction.