New Escape Room App Comes to Jefferson City

Last week we gave you a list of 50 Things To Do In JCMO This Summer. This week we are adding one more new and exciting item to the list…


“What is it?” you ask.

Great question!

It’s an outdoor, digital escape room. This app, designed by local game company, Karst Games, was made for people to have the escape room experience while being outside and exploring the city.

How does the game work? In groups of two to four people, you must try to escape a deadly nerve agent that has taken over the city. In order to do this, your team must solve puzzles to unlock new locations to get you out of the city.

Sounds fun, right?! It was! Wednesday we hit the pavement and tried it out so we could give you some insight before playing. The game took us about an hour and a half from start to finish, and we walked/ran the entire time, which ended up being a pretty good workout. Just so you know, you will finish the game in a different location than where you start. If you are wanting to add another element of fun, you could always take a SPIN scooter or bike.


To be honest, this was my first escape room experience and I really enjoyed it! Missy and I had to work together to figure out and solve puzzles, and at the same time, we were able to find new and interesting destinations and landmarks around the city. We even found a path that Missy had never been on. Can you guess where we were?


We did it! We escaped the city and we only had to ask for extra clues a few times. 😜 If you and your family or friends are looking for a fun activity, I would definitely give this a try. In fact, we wanted you to try this app so bad we talked Karst Games into making this FREE for download for one week only starting today. (Thank you, Karst Games!) So, grab your crew and get outside to play Atropine!


But wait! There’s more!

Before you head out to solve any puzzles, we asked John Fandrey, Founder & Designer at Karst Games, a few questions about his company and game. Check out what he has to say below!

Q. Can you tell us about your company?

I practiced law for about two years in Minnesota.  I think at some level I always knew I wanted to be a business owner. In 2018, my wife and I moved back to Missouri to be closer to our family.  It was a good opportunity to be close to people we care about and it was also an opportunity for me to start my own business. That’s when I decided to start Karst Games LLC.

Karst Games is an app development company.  The word Karst is related to Missouri’s landscape.  Karst is a form of topography that includes caves, springs, and sinkholes.  Missouri has over 6,000 known caves, more than 3,000 springs, and over 9,000 sinkholes.  I decided on Karst Games because I wanted a unique name that relates to Missouri.

Karst Games’ goal is to provide experiences that are social, affordable, and physically active.  We just launched our first app, Atropine, in April. The story is a deadly nerve agent has been released in Jefferson City and players must solve a series of puzzles downtown to gather the supplies needed to escape.  We designed the app thinking that groups of four people would play, but there is no limit to the number of people that can play at one time. Individuals can also play by themselves. Allowing multiple people to play at one time is how we satisfy the social component of our mission.  

Pictured: John Fandrey & Kayla Smith

Pictured: John Fandrey & Kayla Smith


Q. How does atropine work?

The way Atropine works is that one person in the group will download the app on their phone.  Currently, only iPhones are supported. However, only one person in the group needs to have an iPhone.  

The individual that downloaded the app will open it and press ‘Play.’  The app will instruct the players on where to go.  Once the players are at the starting point, they will have an opportunity to enter the phone numbers of other members in their group.  The phone numbers are used so that clues can be texted to other members of the group. This is done so that everyone can fully participate even if they aren’t the individual running the app.  If no phone numbers are entered then players can simply view clues on the phone running the app.

Puzzles will be presented to players and they will have to use their surroundings to solve.  Things like monuments, inscriptions on buildings, placards, statues, etc. will provide players what they need to solve puzzles.  

There is no time limit so players can take as long as they want to finish the game.  Players can also get up to three clues from the app to help them solve the puzzles. The fourth clue will provide players with the answer to the puzzle.  The result of this is that players are never stuck. They can always finish the game no matter how long it takes or how much difficulty they have with a puzzle.  

When players complete the game they will have the opportunity to submit their score to our leaderboard.  Scores are based on how quickly players complete the game and how many clues they use. Players that complete the game the quickest while using fewest clues will get high scores.

The game takes about an hour and 15 minutes to complete and includes about 20 minutes of walking.  This is how we get players to be physically active. Players can use a vehicle if they don’t want to walk.  


Typically, the game costs $5.99.  This is how we satisfy the affordable component of our mission.  However, the app will be FREE from Friday, June 14th to Friday, Jun 21st.  

Pictured: John Fandrey & Kayla Smith

Pictured: John Fandrey & Kayla Smith


Q. How long have you lived in Jefferson City?

A. My family and I moved to Jefferson City from Minneapolis, MN when I was 9 years old.  I lived here until I graduated from Mizzou in 2012. A couple of weeks after graduation and the day after our wedding, my wife Katie and I moved to Minneapolis for grad school.  My wife and I moved back to Jefferson City in the spring of 2018.

Q. What has been your biggest accomplishment with this game?

Demonstrating perseverance.  Getting a piece of technology to do exactly what you want it to do is hard.  It can be done, and you’ll eventually get there, but your first version of something isn’t going to be exactly what you want.  As an example, I made thousands of edits to Atropine as I was coding it and trying to get it to be the experience I wanted it to be.  I finally submitted the app to Apple’s App Store® and it was launched during the first week of April. I thought I was done and that I could move on to our next project.  I was wrong. We’ve updated the app four times in the last few weeks. It’s not fun digesting feedback and admitting that you can make improvements, but we want to take advantage of opportunities to provide a better experience for our users.  

Q. What made you want to start this business?

My wife and I went to visit a friend in Seattle in August of 2017.  This friend is a huge fan of escape rooms. For those who haven’t done an escape room, it’s an experience where a group of people get “locked” in a room and have to solve puzzles to get out.  They’re a ton of fun and I would recommend them to anyone. In Seattle, the three of us did three escape rooms in two days. I realized that we had probably spent about $90 per person to have those three experiences.  I started wondering if we could use an app to give people a similar experience outside for a lower price. The more I thought about it the more I wanted to start this business.

Pictured: John Fandrey & Kayla Smith

Pictured: John Fandrey & Kayla Smith


Q. What’s your favorite aspect of being a local business owner in Jefferson City?

I love Jefferson City’s size and what that means for working with other businesses.  Compared to a major metropolitan area Jefferson City is a small town, but it’s not that small.  There’s a lot happening here. I think this creates a lot of opportunities for local businesses.  I also think Jefferson City’s size makes it easier for local business owners to talk to each other.  Karst Games has really only started talking to other businesses in the last month, but it’s generally been easy for us to talk to business owners and decision makers.  I don’t know if that would be the case if we were in a city like Kansas City or St. Louis.

Q. What is one thing you wish people knew about your business?

We provide an inexpensive way for people to do something challenging and fun with their friends.  

Q. How do you get motivated?

The people around me are a big part of what motivates me. When people you respect and care about are doing a lot to support you it creates this desire to meet and exceed their expectations.  My wife, Katie is a big part of that. So is Kayla Smith, our Vice President of Marketing. Having these two involved in the business is what makes Karst Games work.

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