This is an amazing little solo RPG adventure book that does so much right that it is easy to overlook the minor issues here and there.
Someone in a Facebook group described it as akin to the Lone Wolf series, which immediately piqued my interest. I remember loving Lone Wolf as a kid and lament the fact that I lost my books over time. I had to give Zaltec a chance.
Some people might be turned off by the hand drawn nature of the book, but that was a big plus for me. It just adds to the indy feel, and speaks to the love that went into creating this.
What I really love about the game is that the puzzles have so many layers that span throughout the small world you are exploring. At first, you're like "This is impossible!" Then you discover something that makes you think you figured it out. But you'll hit another road block until the next layer is revealed. It's a very satisfying mental journey with lots of "pleasant frustration" and plenty of ah-ha moments. And every time you discover another layer, you realize just how genius the author had to be to come up with everything.
The exploration and combat was fun at first, but did quickly become a bit grindy (but I'm the sort of guy who doesn't even like to grind in videogames). The strategy of combat and leveling was a bit too simplistic, as well, because there is really only one good path to take. It sort of worked out well, though, because I ended up playing Zaltec with my 9-year-old over a couple of days. He stayed self-entertained for hours journeying around, killing monsters, and leveling up. And I would step in when there was another puzzle to decode. We managed to figure out all of the puzzles except for one without looking at the hint book. And I think we could have figured that one out if the print quality was a little bit better.
All-in-all, I do recommend Zaltec. Throw the author a couple bucks and enjoy by yourself or with your kids (8-9 is probably a good starting age). Don't look to the hint book too quickly. Not until you've explored the entire world. The puzzles are about 85% of the fun.