This is the fiftieth entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

It’s time for another random selection from the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The random number generators have picked Best Garden, by Luke Parker. Its tagline in the bundle reads:

Can you make the Best Garden?!?

Oh, it is on. I will make the greatest garden you have ever seen.

Best Garden is a small and simple game, presented with bright and colorful pixel art. In each level, players have 60 seconds to try to make the best garden, by filling in the tiles of a square plot of land. These can be assigned “background” types — dirt, two kinds of grass, stone, water — and covered with flowers and other plants. At the start, only a few of these are available, but each stage introduces more, so increasingly varied gardens are possible. There’s a budget for adding things to the garden, but it was so comically high that I never had to concern myself with it. After 60 seconds (or if the player indicates they’re finished) the garden will receive silly and meaningless scores from a panel of judges, and play proceeds with the next stage.

I like how creative Best Garden let me be, since each stage is literally a blank slate, and offered me new things to fill it with. I also enjoyed its sense of humor, offering words of encouragement or reproach seemingly on a whim. But the controls really tripped me up. To place things in the garden, players move a selection box around the garden plot with a gamepad analog stick or the arrow keys. I used the keys, but simply tapping an arrow key is not enough for it to register, and the selection box will not move. Instead, I had to hold the arrow key down just long enough for the box to move, but not so long that it starts rocketing along a row or column.

This made my early attempts chaotic and flailing, and the judges accordingly bemoaned my ugly gardening attempts. Eventually I realized that things are meant to be placed in large swaths, holding keys down to fill a bunch of tiles with the same flower or grass all at once, and I was able to make some pleasing gardens. But I still ran into situations where I needed to get my selection box to a specific place, and found it quite hard to do so with the finicky controls.

That marred what is otherwise a nice, if very simple, game. It will likely only engage for a few minutes, but laying out some fancy gardens isn’t a bad way to spend that time. How many best gardens can you best garden? If you missed it in the bundle, you can grab Best Garden for a minimum price of $4.99 to find out.

That’s a cool 50 down, and only 1691 to go!