Released in 2008, Rolando was arguably the first game to truly show the potential of the iPhone as a gaming platform — and now developer Handcircus is making a return to the platform with an intriguing new release. Called Seabeard, the game is described as a mobile take on Animal Crossing, but with a dash of Wind Waker style. It looks to be very different from the puzzle-heavy Rolando, instead presenting players with a large open world to explore and lots of quests to undertake.

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Handcircus is partnering with Dragonvale developer Backflip Studios to publish the game, which is slated to launch sometime this summer for unannounced mobile platforms. The arrangement appears similar to the Rovio Stars program, which has the Angry Birds maker teaming up with a relatively small number of studios to publish their games, resulting in some excellent games like Tiny Thief. "We are looking to bring a small handful of new games to market in the coming year, from indie developers with a history of innovation," says Backflip's Simon Jeffery, who will lead the new program.

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In addition to Handcircus, Backflip is also partnering with at least one other notable studio: Lightbox Interactive, developer of the PS3 shooter Starhawk. The studio, which has plenty of experience in the console world working on franchises like Warhawk and Twisted Metal, is making its first foray into mobile with Plundernauts. The stylish sci-fi exploration game couples space combat with lots of ship customization features, all rendered in a slick comic book art style. Plundernauts is due to launch this spring for "mobile devices worldwide."