Townscaper left early access last week, a chill town building game I compared to pruning a bonsai tree.
I clearly should have saved that description for Cloud Gardens. It's a similarly chill urban design game, but here you're planting, growing and, yes, pruning plants across dioramas of urban decay. It's now hit 1.0 and left early access, too.
Cloud Gardens has a six-chapter campaign where you have to strike a balance between "the natural and the manufactured". That means that you start by dropping seeds to start some plants growing, but then also unlock junky objects to dot around your scene. You need to eventually cover every object you add with foliage in order to progress, and you can encourage growth by dunking rain clouds over certain areas and make it pretty by shaping the plants with secateurs.
These challenges make Cloud Gardens more of a game than Townscaper, which is pure toy, but this is just the campaign mode. Cloud Gardens also has a sandbox mode with no goals whatsoever, where you can simply tinker freely to see what you can make. There are then built-in tools that let you create looping videos of your creations to share with others. I've not seen anything to suggest what you can create is likely to be wildly different from other people, but each scene is pleasant and relaxing just to look at, so who cares.
I became a plant boi during the pandemic like everyone else - hit me up if you have recommendations for no-light plants - and I'm increasingly interested in any videogame that lets me interact with greenery. Cloud Gardens scratches an itch.