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! 😉
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