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Take-Two, publisher of the controversial video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, is having its latest game reviewed by a judge in Florida to determine if it can be sold to minors.

The game, Bully, is due to be released on Tuesday on the PlayStation2 games console and allows players to take the role of a troublesome schoolboy taking on bullies and teachers at a crumbling prep school, the Bullworth Academy.

Jack Thompson, a crusader against video game violence, filed a complaint in Florida against Take-Two and retailers Wal-Mart and Gamestop, alleging the game was a “Columbine simulator” – a reference to the 1999 school massacre in Colorado – despite the fact it does not feature any guns or killings.

He is seeking a pre-emptive ban on the sale of the game in the state and wants its rating raised from “T”, which is for children 13 years and older.

The judge has ordered Take-Two employees to play Bully in front of him – a process that could take up to 40 hours to complete the game.

Bully is another product of Take-Two’s Rockstar Games, whose studios produced Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It was pulled from retailers’ shelves last year after a hidden sex scene was discovered.

Sales of Bully elsewhere in the US may benefit from the publicity and Take-Two shares were 1.75 per cent higher in midday trading in New York.

Shares of Electronic Arts, Activision and THQ were also higher on the back of strong September sales of video games in the US, according to the NPD research company.

Software and hardware sales were up 29 per cent and 70 per cent respectively on a year earlier.

Electronic Arts, the world’s largest video game publisher, saw a 16 per cent year-on-year increase in sales in September helped by a 16 per cent rise in sales over the previous month of its latest Madden NFL football game.

Elizabeth Osur, video games analyst at Citigroup, attributed the rise to a weak September 2005 and strong demand for games for the Nintendo DS handheld console, the PlayStation2 and Xbox 360.

Nintendo’s DS sold 403,000 units, well ahead of the Sony PSP handheld console at 153,000 units.

More than 250,000 units of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 were sold for total sales of 2.7m in the US since its launch in November 2005, giving it a substantial installed base ahead of the release of Sony and Nintendo’s next-generation consoles in November.

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