My second favorite construction toy brand after LEGO is Oxford from South Korea. It is the only brand that I would say truly meets LEGO’s quality in almost every way. The look, feel, clutch-power, and precision of Oxford pieces are the same as LEGO’s, and their color-palette is very similar as well (they are still using LEGO’s original brown and grays, and the other colors almost always match LEGO’s, plus they have their own colors as well). Oxford makes some really beautiful and imaginative sets, particularly in the Asian history and fantasy themes (see links to my previous reviews at the end of this post). Some LEGO fans also like them because they make great modern military sets (an area that LEGO wouldn’t touch).
Oxford sets are difficult to acquire in North America, and even just getting information on what sets and themes are available is not easy. Oxford has their own website, oxfordtoy.co.kr, but it’s mostly in Korean and slow to load, so navigating is a challenge. The only reliable source of Oxford sets is South Korean sellers via eBay. Shipping is usually free or reasonable, however the sets themselves are expensive – on par with LEGO’s prices, if not more. Due to the high prices, I can’t indulge in buying Oxford sets too often, but I regularly check what sets are available on eBay. And when I do get some, I’m always exceedingly happy with them.
A series of Oxford sets that recently caught my attention are from the Code Name Cobra collection. While I’m not a big fan of modern military themes, what really intrigued me in these sets are the new style Oxford minifigs, with turning waist and bendable knees. Oxford has been making minifigs that are very similar to LEGO’s own figures, but with slightly more rounded edges on the torsos, legs, and particularly the feet. So, when I saw the new figures with the bendable knees, I just had to try them out. I found an eBay seller who had the #CN3535 Oxford Code Name Cobra Assault Vehicle – the smallest set in the collection (see above). After shelling out $24 for a set that has less than 200 pieces (I told you they were expensive), I waited a couple of weeks for the package to arrive. Below, I will show you the set briefly, then discuss the minifigures with extra articulation.
Oxford boxes are similar to LEGO’s packaging in quality and style of artwork. One thing I do like better about Oxford packaging is the slide-out tray that contains all the inner bags. This makes the box double as a nice storage container for the pieces and instruction booklet.
The instructions are printed on the same quality paper as LEGO’s instructions, and the images are very nice and bright with excellent color calibration and clear building steps. If you are used to building with LEGO, you would be right at home with building Oxford sets.
The sticker-sheet includes all the decorations you see on the set. The stickers are high quality with bright colors and sharp lines, but the finish is a bit more matte compared to LEGO stickers (this is not a problem, but just thought to point out).
Oxford mostly uses the same type of elements as LEGO, but they also have their own unique pieces. I especially like the 1×1 masonry bricks, the ridged 1×1 round bricks, and the really nice mustard-yellow color of some of the pieces (a unique color to Oxford). Minifigure accessories and weapons are on sprues, which I actually really like because they protect any unused pieces from damage and getting lost.
I only bought this set for the new style minifigs, not for the set itself, but it basically includes a small military vehicle, and a damaged building that is used as a hideout shelter. Everything is solidly built and looks quite nice with tastefully matching colors. The last page of the instructions and the back of the box shows how the set fits together with the other models in the collection to build a larger military scene. The structures have LEGO Technic-style pegs on the sides, so they can be attached to each other in different configurations (just like the LEGO Modular Buildings).
Now, let’s talk about the minifigures – the main attraction of this set (at least to me). The connection of the head and arms are still the same as on standard Oxford (and LEGO) figures. However, the torso is now connected to the hip with only one long peg, which allows the waist to rotate. The connection is quite smooth and solid (kind of like how the head connected to the neck feels on LEGO minifigures). The connection of the legs to the hips is still the same, but the legs are now made of two pieces joint at the knee with tiny bumps snapping into holes. Everything is connected solidly – not too tight, not too loose – but I’m somewhat worried about the long-term durability of such delicate connections.
Due to the extra articulation at the waist and knees, you can achieve some fun poses with these minifigures, including turning to the side, running, jumping, kicking, dancing, and sitting down with dangling feet. However, the additional articulation also means that attaching the figures to a surface takes a bit of extra manipulation and patience (compared to regular minifigs), as you have to line up both the upper and lower legs, as well as the hips, in the way you want them.
I was particularly interested in these figures, because LEGO fans sometimes complain that traditional minifigs don’t have sufficient posability. I often think that these LEGO fans likely never tried to pose the super articulated mini action figures from Mega Construx, which – while very lifelike – take supreme patience to align. These Oxford minifigs with extra articulation seem like a possible good compromise between the simplicity of traditional minifigs, and super articulated mini action figures.
Having had a chance to play with the new style Oxford figures, I would say that I still prefer traditional minifigs for their simplicity and easy posability, the same way I also prefer LEGO Friends mini-dolls over Mega Construx’s American Girl posable figures. Even though I collect traditional minifigs, minifigs with extra posability (Oxford, Mega Construx American Girl), and super articulated action figures (Mega Construx collectors’ line), for everyday use and play, I think simplicity wins. You can line up an entire minifigure army in just a few minutes because they are so easy to pose with just a few movable parts. However, the Oxford figures with extra articulation could work really well for brickfilmers and photographers where the additional posability can offer unique possibilities. And, since Oxford figures are very similar to LEGO minifigs, they could even be mixed in with minifigs without being too distracting. (Picture below from left to right: regular Oxford minifig, LEGO minifig, Oxford articulated minifig.)
I have only seen the Oxford figures with extra posability in the Code Name Cobra collection, so I’m not sure if they are planning to introduce them in other lines as well. My guess is that due to the more delicate connections and additional skill required for posing, these articulated minifigs will only be included in sets meant for older kids (the Code Name Cobra line is recommended for kids ages 6+), which would make sense. If you want to try them out yourself, you can find the Code Name Cobra sets on eBay: FIND OXFORD SETS ON EBAY
I hope this review gave you something a bit unique and interesting outside of our regular LEGO news and reviews. What do you think? How do you like the idea of minifigs with extra posability? Feel free to share your thought and discuss in the comment section below! 😉
And you might also like to check out the following related posts:
I still will never use anything other than LEGO. Also, I’m in my dark ages rn…it’s weird ’cause I know I’m in it, but I still don’t wanna build… I started a daily Minecraft channel that’s the main reason probably…
You’re in your dark ages??? NOOO!!!… Seriously, it’s quite natural. Also sometimes it is actual Dark Ages, other times it is just that you get busy with other stuff. Real Dark Ages usually means completely getting out of the hobby, selling or giving away all your LEGO, etc. This most often happens with teens. If you survive into adulthood with your LEGO intact, you likely didn’t go through a true Dark Ages, but just a bit of distraction. 🙂
My Lego was – overall – more or less intact, it just remained on the attic for many years…
That’s a very interesting minifig. Love the poses! I wonder if lego ever considered something like this.
They likely did, but decided that it would be too fiddly for regular play.
Btw, wasn’t Oxford’s parts used in the Kre-O sets, or was that earlier?
Kre-O is made by Oxford. 😉
I don’t know if they have every experimented with something like this, but they definitely tried different minifig concepts. I agree with Hakan, that they probably decided against something like this because it would limit the age-group they can use it for. They are nice for older kids, but younger kids would find them a bit harder to pose, and also the bottom part of the legs can come off if handled roughly. Very good quality though. 🙂
While I agree with the probability of problems with the articulated legs, I do wish for the single connection between torso and legs. Just the ability to turn the bodies slightly would make a big difference in opportunities for posing and play.
That actually shouldn’t be hard to accomplish, in fact, LEGO is already doing it with four-armed characters like Garmadon. The secondary torso with the two extra arms is connected to the regular neck-post. However, I also noticed that whenever LEGO does this, they also extend the front edge of the torso to make sure it doesn’t twist. On the Oxford minifigs, the turning torso is a very strong and reliable connection, but the post is longer than just a regular neck-post. It is definitely useful for posability.
I’m not too fond of Mega Bloks, in general, since the plastic used isn’t ABS and feels too different from regular Lego.
For brands that use ABS, such as Oxford, Kre-O and Cobi, I usually have a bigger tolerance…
(I’m not much into military builds, however…)
When I went to visit the Mega factory, I was told that Mega can’t use the same ABS plastic as LEGO, because it is a proprietary formula that LEGO owns the rights to. I’m not entirely sure that this is true though, because Oxford and Kre-O bricks definitely feel the same as LEGO, and I haven’t heard of them getting into legal trouble over this (I have never personally handled Cobi, so I don’t know about that one).
I would also add that the most recent Mega sets feel much more close to LEGO then older sets. When you build some of their sets that have solid bright colors like American Girl (with sets like Call of Duty or Halo you can immediately tell it’s not LEGO because of the colors), you can hardly tell the difference.
ABS is a rather broad classification, which could consist of many different exact formulas, as I have understood it. They could apparently feel more or less like Lego, in their various applications.
On the other hand, I’ve remember reading something about how, in Poland, the ability to import ABS for industrial reasons was very generous. Could also be the case in South Korea.
I’m not sure now whether the factories of Mega Bloks are located in USA or Canada, but it could be that, for whatever reason, ABS import is much more regulated in North America, so it wouldn’t be a commercially viable option.
Oh, that’s interesting. I haven’t thought of that. Yes, Mega’s factory is now in Canada. They make all the pieces and the packaging there. I visited the place, and while we were not allowed to go deeply inside, we could walk around the parameters. They still make their minifigures in China though, because many of them are hand-painted.
Interesting! Also, LEGO themselves seem to adjust their formulas, as I noticed older LEGO pieces have a more rigid feel to them, while newer LEGO is more buttery – if that makes sense. 🙄
Really like the posability of these! Might get some!
Those castle sets look fantastic! I’m very tempted. Is the quality really is like Lego’s?
Yes, Oxford is the closest to LEGO as far as feel, clutch power, consistency of color (Oxford is actually much better in this regard) and precision. Their instructions are also closest to LEGO’s and the look and feel of the sets too.
If you are interested, I would suggest you start with a small set, like the one I reviewed here, and give it a try. You might also consider trying Kre-O, as they are readily available in the US, and are made by Oxford. The only difference I noticed between Oxford-branded sets and Kre-O sets is that true Oxford sets have clearer/shinier translucent parts. I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps they manufacture the sets for the two different brands at different factories, or with different plastics.
The only thing I don’t like so much about Oxford, is that their minifigs are not as cute (in my opinion) as LEGO’s. They are kind of like old-school LEGO minifigs with very simple face and body prints. Also, their feet is somewhat different, and the arms are slightly looser. They are high quality, but I just prefer LEGO minifigs. The accessories are compatible with LEGO minifigs though, so you can just swap them out.
Thanks for the really detailed overview! I had never heard of Oxford sets before, but I might have to seek some out now 🙂
Dave, you’re very welcome! BTW, nice to have you over! Hope we will meet again at another great adventure, either at Mega, or some other awesome place! 😀
Dark ages? I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. I started collecting Lego when I am an adult. The problem is Lego has turned me into a child again. ( kinda like the movie”Big”). Lol! This brand of bricks and mini figures are interesting. But, if the cost is about the same as Lego sets then I’ll stick with Lego. Of course, if Lego keeps raising there prices I may have to stop collecting all together . Oh, there’s my dark age. Lol.
Well, that was an interesting loop to read! 😀
Which part? The reversing from Adult to child or stop collecting Lego if it gets to expensive . That probably won’t happen for a very long time( I hope). I would have to have therapy to successfully quit Lego and besides I have enough sets to keep me busy for a dozen lifetimes. So, no worries. Worst case scenario , I turn into Gollum and hide in a cave with what’s left of Lego sets saying” my precious” .Lol.
You are really in a good writing mood today! 😀
I am , yesterday I was working on a Lego set ( fun at the beach ) and I made a beach scene . I also made a park for my fun at the park people . I have a creator set that you get for spending a certain amount of money . It had a statue standing in the middle of a Fountain. So, I put that ( along with what it came with ) and put it in the middle of the park. It looks cool. My creative ideas are flowing . It always puts me in a good mood. That and the Holiday Spirit is kicking in.
Good for you! That’s a very nice little Creator set, and it sounds like you got good use for it! Have fun and keep those creative juices flowing! 🙂
Admin, no article today? Or is it just late? I need my daily fix. 😀
It’s embargoed until 11 AM EST. 😉
Oh! Is it an announcement? Is it the Diner? I bet it is!
I can’t confirm or deny. 😉
It’s been revealed on several other sites already, but still…
The embargo was until 11 AM EST. As we are a RLUG, we can’t break LEGO’s embargo dates and times. All recognized RLUG’s posted the press-release at the same time as we did. There were only two early leaks as far as I know; the one blurry picture from a Chinese site about a week ago, and a small picture from the January LEGO Store Calendar yesterday.
Ah, well, maybe I read that post at wrong time.