trash panda video game

That adorable trash panda video game set in Toronto arrives early next year

Direct from your garbage bin to your computer screen, Toronto's favourite (or least favourite depending on who you ask) masked bandits will soon be part of a uniquely local PC gaming experience.

Raccoons are just an accepted part of life in the big city, earning the friendly title of "trash pandas," brazenly stealing your food deliveries, and even putting Toronto on the urban wildlife map with a segment on BBC's Planet Earth II.

If hearing Sir David Attenborough talk about Toronto's most famous four-legged critters on your TV screen wasn't enough, Toronto filmmaker, game developer and storyteller Jason Leaver is bringing the litter-loving, food-rinsing chaos-bringers to the video game world.

Set right here in Toronto, the Trash Panda video game has been generating buzz since making headlines this spring, and the long-awaited alpha testing phase has gamers and raccoon fans excit-..err..rabidly awaiting its release. We can now be the first to confirm the game release will happen in early 2022.

"I'm making this game for Torontonians," Leaver tells blogTO. "I wanted this to be a celebration of our quirky love for our unofficial mascot."

So here's the premise. It's trash night, the bins are out awaiting collection, and like any good raccoon, you want to knock over all the receptacles to get nice and chonky while making the biggest mess possible in the process.

And while game development is typically a closed-door process from the larger studios, Leaver has been transparent in his approach, building up hype for the game by offering windows into its constant evolution.

Your in-game, red-toque-wearing raccoon will generate points based on the size of the mess, while toppled bins will contain fun power-ups through special trash items like sugary donuts that give your little masked scavenger a considerable speed boost.

Real-world Toronto threats like busy traffic and the rare but very real coyote-wolf hybrids will act more like shepherds, herding raccoons back into playable areas rather than putting them in any real danger.

Leaver makes it clear that "you can't die in this game; it's just supposed to be a chill experience."

Though he flirted with the idea of in-game deaths and the very specific Toronto reference of a makeshift memorial, Leaver ultimately decided to make the game death-free.

The game's recent move into alpha testing is giving the first players access to Trash Panda and allowing Leaver to iron out the final details in anticipation of the game's upcoming release.

Testing is also offering up great scenes of a stylized, dreamlike Toronto neighbourhood backed by that familiar CN Tower-punctuated skyline.

Leaver was initially just trying to give a sense of the typical Toronto neighbourhood, but as the game developed, he began to tinker with importing map data to create accurate neighbourhood layouts for the raccoons to explore.

"I found a way to import open street map data, so I’m now creating levels based on actual geography. It actually is Toronto," says Leaver.

"I'm currently experimenting with the Upper Birch Cliff neighbourhood, so that skyline view is actually from an eastern perspective. Next, I'll look at something on the west side of Toronto, like Roncesvalles or Swansea."

Leaver is also exploring building a level based on Algonquin Island, with its classic skyline views of downtown.

If the street layouts, iconic skyline, and the general trash panda theme weren't enough to set the Toronto atmosphere, Leaver is even considering incorporating Toronto-specific trash that would further the game's home appeal.

Leaver has many more ideas for in-game easter eggs, but we'll leave those for gamers to discover upon the title's release.

If the idea sounds a bit out of the blue (bin), there is a pretty successful precedent for this adorable yet ridiculous concept.

The 2019 indie puzzle game, Untitled Goose Game, follows a goose (surprise) causing general mayhem. An unexpected sleeper hit, the Australian indie game shattered expectations by selling over a million copies in just its first three months.

And those Aussies haven't even seen our geese.

Though the Trash Panda game's release is still a few months away at least, Leaver will be launching a game page on Steam in the imminent future, the next step in rolling out his creation to the public.

Lead photo by

Trash Panda/Jason Leaver

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